Doctor Who: The First Doctor Adventures: The Outlaws
Starring: Stephan Noonan, Lauren Cornelius, Annette Badland, Glynis Barber, Paul Copley, and Rufus Hound
Written by: Lizbeth Myles & Lizzie Hopley
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
“Oh, Doctor, MUST you always be such a wet blanket?!”
One of the first TARDIS teams gets a dynamically fun double-feature re-debut in Doctor Who: The First Doctor Adventures: The Outlaws. A brand new boxset of adventures starring The First Doctor (an uncannily dialed in Stephen Noonan) and Dodo Chaplet (Lauren Cornelius in maximum adorable mode).
Set shortly after companion Steven’s departure in the TV story The Savages, The Outlaws delivers classic First Doctor thrills for a new audience. They are bolstered throughout by Noonan and Cornelius’ instant and undeniably charming chemistry. All undoubtedly supported by The Outlaws’ excellent sound design, swell direction from director Nicholas Briggs, and creepy-cool score by composer Toby Hrycek-Robinson.
In other words, if one was looking for a good place to start with The First Doctor, The Outlaws is that. And a whole lot more!
Firstly, we have the titular story from long-time fan-favorite scribe Lizbeth Myles. Inspired by Robin Hood and old costume dramas, “The Outlaws” is a classically fun “historical” to start this set. The Doctor and Dodo have unwittingly materialized in the 13th Century England. Just outside of Lincoln Castle. Where a gang of rogues have been waylaying travelers on the road.
Complicating matters is the gang’s new leader: The Meddling Monk! The Meddling Monk played with madcap energy by Rufus Hound, who has been subtly puffing up the rogues to goose the French’s claim to the English throne? Thus upending all of established European History! And gaining revenge upon a monarch who scorned his Meddling!
Myles’ script here is consistently funny. Punctuated by primo Meddling Monk/Doctor verbal sparring. Allowing plenty of endearing interplay between The Doctor and Dodo, alongside wonderful uses of the whole scope of 13th Century living.
Standing at four parts, Myles’ opening gambit really sets the stage well for this “new” TARDIS team. Better still, she recaptures early Doctor Who historical episodes’ fussy, slightly silly spirit. Allowing subplots and character interactions to breathe (maybe even longer than they should in parts). By the same token, “The Outlaw’s” length will also call to mind classic Who serialization.
Further, the set’s finale story, “The Miniaturist” by Lizzie Hopley, takes said stage and proceeds to show the hell out on it! Ending The Outlaws with a true belter. Imbued with a weird, horror-tinged energy that I truly was NOT expecting. And sending this first new volume out on the highest possible note.
Arriving in 2019 on the North Yorkshire coast, The Doctor and Dodo are drawn to a most unusual working mine shaft. One that has been probing the ancient Zechstein seabed under orders of one Professor Medra (a coolly confident Yasmin Mwanza). But a recent rash of disappearances, both places AND people, have locals on edge. Not to mention something in the mine seems to be…screaming?
Now to say any more would be to give away “The Miniaturist’s” best moves. One includes an incredibly trippy and sonically amazing sequence where The Doctor and Professor Medra are “stretched” across dimensions. But trust me when I say “The Miniaturist” pushes the whole of The Outlaws from “good” to “great.” By marshaling the whole energy of The First Doctor’s era and filtering it through folk horror, heady fantasy, and grounded yet weird dramatics. All in service of arguably one of the best First Doctor stories I’ve ever experienced.
Finally, special mention should be given to actors Stephen Noonan and Lauren Cornelius. Both display a full commitment to their performances of The First Doctor and Dodo. In The Outlaws’ special features, Noonan describes an ardent study of William Hartnell’s performances, both in and out of Doctor Who. I am happy to say it completely pays off. Noonan effortlessly recaptures Hartnell’s energy while never slipping into outright mimicry. He finds all sorts of neat and novel ways to bring physicality to the role, making these first performances stand out from what audiences might expect.
On the other side of the coin, Lauren Cornelius’ Dodo absolutely shines next to Noonan. Though she has more space to grow, as Dodo’s TV and “expanded universe” stories are somewhat slim, Cornelius’ energy throughout The Outlaws is totally magnetic. Balancing out the irascible, quick-to-indignant First Doctor with heart, humor, and an irrepressible sunniness that I truly hope we get to see (or hear, rather) more of.
In conclusion, Doctor Who: The First Doctor Adventures: The Outlaws is a wonderful opening double-feature boxset. One totally steeped in the eerie vibes of 60s Doctor Who but powerfully presented to new audiences. Across two tremendous examples of Doctor Who at its best.