‘The Planet of Witches’ (Audio)

‘THE PLANET OF WITCHES’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

An Adventure in E-Space with Witches

Will the Fourth Doctor, Romana, K-9 and Adric ever get out of E-Space?

I enjoyed Volume 1 of Series 9 of ‘The Fourth Doctor Adventures’ by Big Finish very much. I found both ‘Purgatory 12’ and ‘Chase the Night’ very compelling stories. I was looking forward to how the Fourth Doctor, Romana, K-9 and Adric’s journey in E-Space would continue in the next set of stories.

Volume 2 of Series 9 of ‘The Fourth Doctor Adventures’ sees Tom Baker back as the Fourth Doctor with Lalla Ward as Romana, Matthew Waterhouse as Adric and John Leeson as K-9. In the second set of E-Space stories by Big Finish, it seems that our Season 18 TARDIS team may get closer to home. 😀

It’s intriguing how Big Finish can find ways to extend the E-Space set of stories in ‘Doctor Who’ with Tom Baker’s Doctor through short stories; audiobooks and full-cast audio adventures. Maybe one day, I might come up with my own Fourth Doctor adventure with Romana, Adric and K-9 in E-Space.

I wouldn’t say the Fourth Doctor, Romana, Adric and K-9 audio adventures match superbly to the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric audio adventures I’ve enjoyed. But they’ve been thrilling enough and I’m glad there are more worlds to explore in E-Space with it being a small pocket universe.

The two stories in Series 9: Volume 2 of ‘The Fourth Doctor Adventures’ are follows. They’re ‘The Planet of Witches’ by Alan Barnes and ‘The Quest of the Engineer’ by Andrew Smith. Here are my unique thoughts on what I make of each of the two stories in turn. First, it’s ‘The Planet of Witches’.

This is a four-part adventure by Alan Barnes featuring the Fourth Doctor, Romana, Adric and K-9 team. They visit this misty yellow planet which has so many swamps – the dead marshes perhaps? 😀

This is a ‘Doctor Who’ story that could match the same gothic style as ‘State of Decay’ with witchcraft and everything. The human spaceship involved in this story even originates from N-Space.

The story was originally meant to be directed by Nicholas Briggs. Whilst he had partial direction over it, he became sick before the recordings could start. So the recordings were handled by Ken Bentley.

I did enjoy ‘The Planet of Witches’ when I heard it over the Easter holidays of 2020. But I can’t say it was a winner for me compared to the previous two adventures. This was a decent tale for my liking.

I suppose my reservations for this adventure comes from with it being quite all over the place. The tone was uneven for me, going from being slightly comedic to gothic horror to pure sci-fi all through.

It’s like the audio was struggling to find a way to tell the story in a coherent manner. But with so much going on, the surprises felt underwhelming. It was a challenge to keep up with the tale’s pace.

With that said, I don’t find the story dreadful in any sense. The balance of tone for this adventure was not quite right for me. I would have liked a lot of suspense featured throughout this audio story.

Whilst the story has elements of witchcraft in it, there are also elements of Grecian myth especially with Tiresias being introduced. I suppose that’s reflected in Romana and her ‘Horns of Nimon’ outfit.

Tom Baker remains very enjoyable as the Fourth Doctor. I like how he balanced the quips and good humoured nature of his character throughout. There are times where he can get bitter about things.

According to the CD extras, it was intriguing to hear Tom Baker’s thoughts on the character in that the Doctor never became depressed. I wonder if it reflects in the moods he had during Season 18. 😐

Lalla Ward in ‘The Planet of Witches’.

Lalla Ward is equally enjoyable as Romana, but I couldn’t help get a sense of her being moody at times. This is especially in interacting with the Doctor and K-9 and addressing the evil Mistress Smite.

She did seem to be off with Adric at times, even belittling him. I wonder if this leads to Romana’s attitude to Adric in ‘Warriors’ Gate’. Romana also got very upset when K-9 was sucked into a swamp.

K-9 voiced by John Leeson does get to have an active voice in the story. At first, I thought he was going to be out of an episode, reflecting how he was mistreated during Season 18 stories at times. 😀

But it turns out K-9 was restored to life by Tiresias and gets possessed somewhat by the entity, I believe. K-9 also gets to spin around a lot in the story, especially when confused on Romana’s orders.

Matthew Waterhouse in ‘The Planet of Witches’.

Matthew Waterhouse is very good as Adric in this adventure. He does get kidnapped by the twig-like Familiars in this adventure when he’s been recognised as a Class A person, having a high intelligence.

Adric gets chosen by Tiresias to help. He’s asked to bring the TARDIS to Tiresias. This is in exchange for a way out of E-Space. His trusting of Tiresia as well as being fooled by K-9 may bring his downfall.

The story also features Abigail McKern who plays Crone, later revealed as Mistress Smite as well as the voices of the Moirai. Abigail McKern did ‘The English Way of Death’ before this audio adventure.

Lauren Cornelius and Samuel Blenkin in ‘The Planet of Witches’.

There’s also Lauren Cornelius as Anjlis and Samuel Blenkin as Tanhar, two younglings like Adric who are accused for being witches. There’s Michael Simkins as Raxxil, who happens to be a witch-hunter.

And there’s Samuel Clemens as Yggra as well as Tiresias. He also does the voices of the Familiars, who are tree-like Wicker Men servants of Tiresias. I did wonder if they’re the story’s main monsters.

There was a chance that the Fourth Doctor, Romana, K-9 and Adric might have found a way out of E-Space via a CVE. But K-9 deleted all information regarding the CVE on Romana’s instructions. Typical!

From left to right: Samuel Blenkin, Lauren Cornelius, John Leeson, Michael Simkins, Abigail McKern, Lalla Ward, Matthew Waterhouse and Christopher Naylor.

‘The Planet of Witches’ is a decent Fourth Doctor audio adventure for me. I wouldn’t call it great but I enjoyed hearing Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, Matthew Waterhouse and John Leeson as their characters.

The CD extras are as follows. At the end of Discs 1 and 2, there are behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew. The interviewees include Tom Baker, Lalla Ward, Matthew Waterhouse, John Leeson, additional director Ken Bentley, etc.

‘The Planet of Witches’ rating – 7/10


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8 thoughts on “‘The Planet of Witches’ (Audio)

  1. Timelord 007

    Superb review Tim, i completely agree with your comments about this audio drama my friend, i feel Alan Barnes isn’t one of BF strongest writers & this story lacks those extra layers which Jonathan Morris or John Dorney always deliver to there stories, yeah it’s not bad but it’s hardly memorable despite good performances from the cast.

    7/10 is a fair rating.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon.

      Many thanks for your comments. Glad you enjoyed my review on ‘The Planet of Witches’. Very pleased you agree with my comments about this story.

      Yeah, I find that Alan Barnes can be an acquired taste. Whilst I love ‘Castle of Fear’ and enjoyed ‘Heroes of Sontar’, his writing sometimes can be off-putting, especially when he attempts to deliver humour. I like it when Jonathan Morris and John Dorney write character drama. Their stories can feel exciting and gripping to listen to. Sometimes Alan Barnes’ stories aren’t always true to the characters when he tries something different with them. I think that’s the case with this story for the Fourth Doctor, Romana, Adric and K-9.

      Anyway, pleased you find my rating for this story fair.

      Tim. 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  2. helenofvulcan

    I think this may have been my favourite of the audio ‘E-Spaces’ (with the possible exception of ‘A Full Life’). This one is another which demonstrates why I feel E-Space has a ‘limited and declining’ nature. Here we have fantastic technology and a high level of knowledge and intelligence… and yet this society slid right back into a mire of superstition and persecution.

    I tend to approach witchcraft tales in Sci-fi with a good deal of trepidation. Many writers choose to ridicule the traditions and mythology from which it originates, they often misunderstand or misrepresent it, and some even descend into sneering, which makes for an unpleasant experience (and a saddening one when it’s a fandom you love). This, however, was done with a light touch and good humour, and could even be taken as complementary in parts: for a start, the Witches’ chief characteristic is that they’re intelligent 🙂 Even Crone’s rhyme has a truth to it, and ‘Crone’ itself is a nice hat-tip to Wiccan belief, especially when she turns out to be Smite; the destroyer aspect of the Crone.

    The parallels with State of Decay are well taken; the origins of each being in N-Space and the horror elements of Vampires and Witches. They both blend nicely the traditions while offering scientific explanations for them.

    It was fascinating that the Doctor was able to avoid the brain scan, while, in contrast, Adric was quite pleased to have his intelligence acknowledged; that shows a real naivety – and reinforces that perhaps Adric thinks of his brains as the only worthwhile asset he has. It also seems to be the easiest level for him to interact with others.

    The elements taken from Greek mythology were very well woven into the story and knowing who the original Tireseas and the Moirai were added depth without having to take time out of the tale. It added nicely to the atmosphere without being either overbearing or compulsory.

    The combination of wicker-man and familiar was an interesting notion; it put me in mind of the Greenwitch in ‘The Dark is Rising’. And then, when we discover how they’re constructed, it went right back to being scary. Up until now we felt rather sorry for the A-class brains, but it turns out that the alternative is even worse!

    Poor ol’ K9. He really cops for it in this audio; first he has a swamp to contend with – he’s given instructions he was actually supposed to ignore (how was he supposed to know that?), and then he gets possessed and used to fool one of his friends! He really undergoes some abuse here with all the spinning. The dog needs a hug, folks!!

    Gotta say, Tim, I’d love to read what you come up with for an E-Space adventure. I say go for it!

    Aye,
    Helen

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Helen.

      Thanks for sharing your insight into ‘The Planet of Witches’. Glad you enjoyed the story. You seem to be really into it, especially with the background and the set-up of the witchcraft and Greek legends revolved around the tale.

      I can’t share the same opinion as you as I felt ‘The Planet of Witches’ was the weakest of the four stories. Maybe if I heard the story again, I might think differently. I’m glad you enjoyed it though and I suppose it makes sense to have a lighter story compared to the brooding ones that already feature in the E-Space series of stories in ‘Doctor Who’. I’ve yet to hear ‘A Full Life’ incidentally.

      I would like to try out writing an E-Space adventure. Not sure how I’d go about it though. It’s something to think on. Thanks for the suggestion.

      Many thanks for your comments,

      Tim. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  3. helenofvulcan

    Hey, Tim 🙂

    In that case, I shall say nothing about ‘A Full Life’. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for you 🙂

    I certainly don’t mind that we disagree on ‘Planet of Witches’ – life would be boring if we all thought the same way and since I’m very well acquainted with the witchcraft themes (and some of the mythology) in this story, it was easy for me to get into and relate to.

    Aye,
    Helen

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Helen.

      Oh I wouldn’t ask you to say anything about ‘A Full Life’. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it when I get around to hearing it.

      Yeah, I suppose me not being into the witchcraft themes made it difficult for me to appreciate the story and the themes it was conveying. I did enjoy ‘Planet of Witches’ when I heard it, but after hearing ‘Purgatory 12’ and ‘Chase the Night’, I suppose I didn’t find the story as exciting as the previous two instalments of the E-Space series.

      Thanks,
      Tim. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. helenofvulcan

        That’s very true. Some things do suffer for comparison. That’s partly why I look at the blurb and do my first listen in the order from which I think I’ll enjoy least to the one I’ll enjoy most. I’m not always right, of course, but it’s a system that’s served well so far 🙂

        Aye,
        Helen

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Tim Bradley Post author

        Hi Helen.

        I often listen to a Big Finish audio that I either feel a personal connection to e.g. featuring Sarah Sutton/Nyssa in it; whether it’s essential to listen to before hearing another audio e.g. I’m likely to hear Series 8 of the Fourth Doctor Adventures before hearing the Dalek Universe sets with David Tennant; or whether I’ve purchased an audio in a subscription e.g. I heard ‘The Flying Dutchman’/’Displaced’ recently when I had it with my subscription for ‘Thin Time’/’Madquake’. My system for listening to Big Finish audios has a method of madness to it. 😀

        Tim. 🙂

        Like

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