You can imagine the discussions at Big Finish Towers, as the pairings for this first box set are prepared. On the one hand, you’ve got the Judoon, a monosyllabic race who brook no argument; on the other, you’ve got a Doctor whose use of polysyllabic words and a tendency to argue about anything that comes to mind. Put them together and you’ve either got a disaster or a triumph on your hands.
This is quite definitely the latter, with Simon Barnard and Paul Morris’ script blending their love of the ridiculous (the mental image of a Victorian era court filled with Judoon is one I will treasure from this year’s Big Finish output) with a courtroom-based drama that establishes a number of elements of the new series were present in the classic days. (I did wonder if the Shadow Proclamation was a response to the Time War, but clearly not.) They find a clever way to create an individual among the Judoon (think of the way that Hugh worked in The Next Generation) who brings out some very surprising sides to the race, and pay homage to circus stories of old, as well as the occasional tip of the hat to The Elephant Man.
A lot of the scenes are two-handers between Colin Baker and Nick Briggs as the Judoon (you do wonder if Briggs is regretting giving them that particular tone of voice!), and director Barnaby Edwards brings out one of Baker’s strongest performances. Because of the nature of the script, Briggs has to maintain a difficult balancing act: there’s an inherent insanity to what he’s being asked to do in the role, but he pulls it off extremely well, and there was more than one occasion when I burst out laughing while listening (much to the dogs’ surprise!). The other guest stars are uniformly strong, doubling up where necessary to give the impression of a much larger cast than was actually the case; Iain Meadows’ sound design sells the many different locations well, and blends well with Howard Carter’s musical score.
Verdict: An unlikely pairing that produces a terrific piece of drama. 9/10
Click below for the reviews of the other stories in this set: