Despite this being another recounted tale told to Mike as he and the Doctor are stuck in Nest Cottage’s cellar, it is a much more immediate tale, and although told from the Doctor’s point of view – a frustrating technique in previous episodes due to the lack of actual “Doctor” – this episode dispenses with much of the flowery descriptions of the past for good old fashioned and dare I say it Big Finish style action, with Tom finally getting his teeth into being the Doctor in the present. And wow, was it worth the wait. Tom Baker is a force of nature, you can hear the grin in his voice, and you’ll get a thrill of excitment at his odd diction and genius turn of pace as he rattles through fabulous Magrs dialogue.
The revelation made by a hypnotised ring master (Stephen Thornes Antonio) is a wonderful twist in the tale and really makes one want to know how events – the future for the Doctor but the past for the Hornets – are going to unfold. A clever conceit considering we KNOW the Doctor is back and (relatively) safe in the “present” with Mike Yates.
Franklin again is relegated to the odd “Hmm” and “But why…” top and tailing the episode, but this isn’t a bad thing. This installment is definitely about the fourth Doctor and, for me, for the first time, he steps forward to be not just a cypher in the tale but a character running the narrative and Tom is clearly having a ball.
Sound production, direction and music are as in previous installments subtle and fitting, and I recommend listening to it with headphones on…
This is easily the best of the three tales so far, and a nice way to seque into the finale.
Worth it for this episode alone.