If you’ve never listened to any of Big Finish’s Short Trips range, let me advise you to do so. Yes, it’s a series of prose stories rather than full-cast theatrical recordings; but that makes for a very different style of story-telling that is perhaps more slowly paced, and more reflective of the characters’ mores and motivations than full-cast theatrics would allow, and as such well worth a punt or two.
If you’ve never heard a Short Trip written by Julian Richards, I’d advise you to get that changed asap too. His writing is subtle and engaging, and his characterisation pretty-much spot-on. Rarely a dull moment.
And if you’ve never listened to a Julian Richards story narrated by Mathew Waterhouse, Adric off of TV’s the Fifth Doctor Years, then… well, you can see where I’m going with this. Cos TL;DR… he really is very, very good.
Julian Richards’s The Ingenious Gentleman Adric of Alzarius is the second Waterhouse-narrated Short Trip (the previous being the excellent A Full Life, released… has it really been that long? …over a year ago, now) and it proves wholeheartedly that the combination of Waterhouse and narrated prose is meant to be.
Richards’s story follows a fairly simple Who pattern: companion is separated from Doctor; Doctor attempts to vanquish foe while companion makes his/her way back. It does so while utterly and openly ripping off Cervantes’s Don Quioxte, starting with the title and never bothering to stop; and it does this not shamelessly, but with pride and a delighted grin.
Both of which it completely deserves, because there is much to grin about and be proud of here. The use of Don Quixote motifs throughout is patently done with affection and respect, all the way down to the lifting of the fantastic DQ-inspired line, “Ah, but they might be giants” – here repeated and (IMHO) utterly augmented by being shown as so suitably a Fourth Doctor quip. The story itself is one of those curious beasts, a simple and straightforward piece that nonetheless feels totally mysterious right up until the final pull back and reveal (the writing of which requires no meagre skill). And characterisation is, as ever from Richards, spot on: nuanced and recognisable, but not ever overblown.
However, that could all be spoilt, if the narration did not have the same light touch as the writing. Luckily, it does. Waterhouse, possibly unsurprisingly, understands the character of Adric well, and thus narrates from his point of view with a slightly bemused/melancholy air that completely fits. However, his characterisation of the other well-known characters – the Doctor and Tegan, for example – is just as immediately recognisable. I’d love to hear him narrate something from a POV other than first-person-Adric at some point: my gut says it’d be a pretty satisfying listen.
End of the day, if you’re reading this you’re probably well aware of the Short Trips range already. However, you may not be familiar with Richards’s writing or Waterhouse’s narration. My firm suggestion would be that you remedy that soon-as: after all, either or both might be giants.
The Ingenious Gentleman Adric of Alzarius is available from BigFinish.com.
Producer Ian Atkins
Script Editor Ian Atkins
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Written By: Julian Richards
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman
Matthew Waterhouse (Narrator)