‘THE HOLLOWS OF TIME’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Tractators and Professor Stream with the Sixth Doctor and Peri
I’m afraid I struggled with this ‘Lost Story’ featuring Colin Baker’s Doctor and Nicola Bryant’s Peri.
‘The Hollows of Time’ is one of three ‘Doctor Who’ stories originally conceived for the Lost Season 23 of ‘Doctor Who’ back in 1985. The other two were ‘The Nightmare Fair’ and ‘Mission to Magnus’. ‘The Hollows of Time’ was originally meant to be the fifth story in transmission order for the Lost Season 23.
Sadly in 1985, ‘Doctor Who’ was postponed and put on hiatus in 1985 for eighteen months. Thus the original Season 23 of ‘Doctor Who’ was aborted and the story never saw the light of day. Until now that is. In 2009, Big Finish contacted Christopher H. Bidmead to adapt his original TV scripts of the story into audio.
‘The Hollows of Time’ was documented in ‘The Lost Season’ DVD special feature on ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ DVD. It is a 2 x 50-minute story by Christopher H. Bidmead. Chris Bidmead is well-known for being the script-editor of Season 18 – Tom Baker’s final season of ‘Doctor Who’ from 1980 to 81.
Chris Bidmead has also penned three ‘Doctor Who’ stories for TV including ‘Logopolis’, ‘Castrovalva’ and ‘Frontios’. He also contributed the story of ‘Renaissance of the Daleks’ for Big Finish. The ‘Doctor Who’ stories by Chris Bidmead are deemed as being pretty complex and grounded in science-fiction.
Apparently, Chris Bidmead had filed his original TV scripts away in his loft for 25 years after the original Season 23 of ‘Doctor Who’ was postponed. I recall reading Chris Bidmead’s thoughts on ‘The Hollows of Time’ in an interview he did with ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ before this audio was released.
It would be unfair of me to not regard this ‘Doctor Who’ story by Chris Bidmead as highly as I do with some of his other contributions for the series on TV and audio. As much as I admire Chris Bidmead’s creative genius, I’m afraid I struggled with listening to this pretty visual story meant for TV on audio.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there are many intriguing ideas featured throughout this story to listen to. But I found it hard-going to listen to this one. There weren’t enough action sequences for me to enjoy and I did find the pacing a little slow of times. There is also a lot of talking between characters.
The story has the Doctor and Peri taking a holiday of sorts to the sleepy English village of Hollowdean. They’re visiting one of the Doctor’s oldest friends – the Reverend Foxwell (‘Foxy’ as the Doctor calls him). But whilst they’re staying in the village, weird things occur for the Doctor and Peri.
It has to do with a certain villain the Doctor and Peri encounter called Professor Stream. It also involves the return of the Doctor’s oldest foes called the Tractators. Will the Doctor and Peri be able to sort them out? Will our heroes be able to remember what happened once this adventure is over?
From the start, the story has the Doctor and Peri back in the TARDIS recounting what had happened to them during the events of ‘The Hollows of Time’. This framing device occurs throughout the story from beginning to end. This is where my issues for the story come into play, as there is no jeopardy.
We know the Doctor and Peri are going to be alright by the end of this story. The cliff-hanger ending at the end of ‘Part One’ is a fake when the Doctor and Peri are seemingly on the verge of death. It’s also so jarring when we have to keep cutting back to the Doctor and Peri recounting events at times.
As I said, ‘The Hollows of Time’ is a pretty visual story that would’ve been more suited to the television medium. The cliff-hanger ending for ‘Part One’ was originally devised by Chris Bidmead to challenge the boundaries of what TV can do. You can say the same principle applies also for the audio medium.
But I couldn’t help but feel faded by what was going on during the cliff-hanger ending of ‘Part One’. Also, whilst I enjoyed the setting and build-up of ‘Part One’ as I listened to the episode, I struggled to keep up what the plot was going on by the time I came to ‘Part Two’. It was really tiring on the brain.
Colin Baker however delivers a great performance as the Doctor in this adventure. Chris Bidmead is writing for Colin Baker’s Doctor as he would’ve been portrayed in the TV series. It’s interesting to hear Chris Bidmead’s take on the Sixth Doctor, since the humour and drama is balanced rather well.
As much as I found the framing device scenes jarring, I enjoyed the Doctor’s interaction with Peri in the TARDIS in those scenes. There is a sense of mellowness by this point in the relationship between him and his companion. The Doctor isn’t insulting to Peri as he was in previous tales for the TV show.
I liked how the Doctor reunites with his ‘Foxy’ vicar friend and how he uncovers more about what’s going on with Professor Stream and the Tractators in the story. The sequence where the Doctor was sort-of in the TARDIS during the ‘Part One’ cliffhanger was very eerie and unusual to listen to indeed.
Nicola Bryant is equally good as Peri in this audio adventure. I like how Peri gets to be resourceful and use her intelligence to handle a situation. She meets up with the boy Simon and soon the two go off having their own adventures together. Peri can be mother-like and even tells Simon off at times.
During the framing device scenes in the TARDIS, Peri gets frustrated when the Doctor seems to be worrying about what happened during their so-called ‘holiday’ in Hollowdean, but she seems keen to let it all go by and not worry. This is despite the fact they have hazy memories of their adventure.
It’s interesting how she interacts with the Doctor’s friend ‘Foxy’ and how she encounters the Tractators for the first time in this adventure. I did like the scene in ‘Part Two’ where Peri and Simon are about to go up in an elevator/lift and the two have to pull a string in order to get the lift moving.
The main guest star for ‘The Hollows of Time’ is David Garfield as Professor Stream. David Garfield has appeared in ‘Doctor Who’ before. He played Von Wiech in ‘The War Games’ and Neeva in ‘The Face of Evil’. This is considered to be his third ‘Doctor Who’ appearance and he’s always the villain. 🙂
Professor Stream as the villain…didn’t have a big impact on me. For one thing, he doesn’t appear much in ‘Part One’. For another, he seems to have a strange connection to the Doctor that’s never explained. Initially, Chris Bidmand intended that Professor Stream would be revealed as the Master.
Now that would have been a great reveal had Big Finish got the rights to use the Master for this particular ‘Doctor Who’ story? Why couldn’t they? It’s hinted at that Professor Stream could be the Master, but aside from an anagram in his name, it’s never revealed. This was so disappointing to me.
The guest cast also includes Trevor Littledale as Reverend Foxwell – ‘Foxy’ to his friends. Trevor Littledale has done other Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’ including ‘Vengeance of the Stones’ and episodes of ‘Circular Time’. I like Foxy’s character as he’s a vicar with an interest in scientific gadgetry. Intriguing!
There’s also Susan Sheridan who plays Simon the little boy and Mrs. Streeter. Susan Sheridan is well-known for playing Trillian in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ radio series. I enjoyed it when Susan’s doing the voice for Simon in the audio story. It is amusing when she plays an 11-year old boy.
There’s also Hywel John as Steel Specs and Victoria Finney as Jane. These two seem to be in the service of Professor Stream during the story. They seem loyal and determined to get rid of the Doctor in his TARDIS. But as this story progresses, these two people may not turn out as they seem.
The story’s monsters, the Tractators, are…rather disappointing in this. Throughout ‘The Hollows of Time’, I couldn’t feel their intimidating presence. They’re of course the monsters that appeared in ‘Frontios’ also by Chris Bidmead. They had their moments, but why couldn’t any one of them speak?
They even had the Gravis back in this ‘Doctor Who’ adventure. As I recall in ‘Frontios’, the Gravis could speak. Why couldn’t Big Finish get John Gillett back to voice the Gravis again? It would’ve helped to know who the Tractators were in the story. I like the standing stones with the Tractactors inside.
The CD extras are as follows. At the start of Disc 1, there’s a trailer for ‘Paradise 5’ with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant. At the end of Discs 1 and 2, there are behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew including Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, David Garfield, Trevor Littledale, Susan Sheridan, etc.
‘The Hollows of Time’ is a rather disappointing entry in the Lost Season 23 of ‘Doctor Who’ by Big Finish, I’m afraid. No disrespect to Christopher H. Bidmead, but I struggled to listen to this one. There are some intriguing ideas floating throughout this tale, but I’m afraid it didn’t work for me overall.
‘The Hollows of Time’ rating – 5/10
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