Doctor Who: The First Doctor Adventures: The Demon Song
Starring: Stephen Noonan, Lauren Cornelius, Henry Nott, Bhavnisha Parmar, Rosie Baker, Thomas Michaelson, and Genevieve Gaunt
Written by: Bob Ayres & Nicholas Briggs
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs
“Oh, do shut UP! And, do stop calling me…DOC!”
The “new” era of First Doctor and Dodo stories receive a welcomely weird and enthralling new pair of outings in Doctor Who: The First Doctor Adventures: The Demon Song. The latest from the softly rebooted First Doctor Adventures range, stewarded by producers Mark Wright (The Second Doctor Adventures, Blake’s 7, and Doctor Who: Peladon), Nicholas Briggs (he of The Daleks and much, much more), and John Ainsworth (Torchwood, Class, and The Paternoster Gang).
Starring once again the uncannily dialed-in Stephen Noonan and the irrepressibly charming Lauren Cornelius, The Demon Song finds once more a great balance of classic and “modern” Doctor Who storytelling. Anchored wonderfully by more impressive performances and character work from this range’s Doctor and companion. Though ultimately, I think last year’s The Outlaws were a stronger set of stories, The Demon Song provides a wonderful new set for what is quickly becoming one of my favorite of the “new” classic TARDIS teams of Big Finish Productions.
First up – we have the titular tale in two parts, written by debuting Big Finish writer Bob Ayres. The First Doctor and Dodo find themselves in the 2020s, exploring Camden Town with no real goal in mind. Naturally, the pair become quickly embroiled in a strange, sweeping local legend. A sort of haunting recurring melody and sightings of a winged demon kidnapping people from the street!
Further complicating matters is a theatrical and goth-themed “demon hunter,” Daniel De’ath (played by Henry Mott with hilarious self-effacing energy). He stumbles upon our heroes and the “demon song” after catching the “siren” on his stream.
Foundationally, this opening story refocuses us on the Doctor and Dodo. Not only are they allowed ample room to work out their tremendous characterizations, but the plot itself provides them with a consistently entertaining drive – peppered throughout by Ayres with plenty of fun and funny banter and mostly centering around being in the “far future” of our modern day. For example, I never expected to hear someone who sounds exactly like William Hartnell describing to someone how cell phones work. But I am truly happy The Demon Song provided as such.
Next, we have “The Incherton Incident” by series director Nicholas Briggs. A wooly four-part historical, heavily inspired by the Nigel Keane Quatermass stories. The TARDIS is dragged from the time vortex to a coastal English town in 1947. Something has all but destroyed the town of Incherton and locked the Doctor and Dodo from the TARDIS interior. Worse still, alien powers from Earth’s countries and beyond the stars have descended on the town, and they’re determined to control the incident for “their side.” This catches The Doctor and Dodo in the middle of a struggle between nations (and worlds beyond). One that will have dire consequences for the homeworld.
Briggs is a tried and true hand at Doctor Who at this point. However, his finale story here does drag a bit, being a four-parter. But smartly, and much like the opening story. Much of the focus is on the Doctor and Dodo and further enriched by a really talented supporting cast. Briggs even further admits in the set’s special features that he “couldn’t wait” to write for this particular pairing and cast.
That excitement absolutely shows here and throughout the whole set overall. Though The First Doctor and Dodo’s time on TV were short-lived, these new sets keep filling that void with wonderful, character-driven action and interactions. Noonan’s First Doctor once more is almost TOO on point. Taking physical acting choices from Hartnell’s tenure and expressively recreating them throughout both stories. Giving his whole performance, and the stories overall, a tactile verisimilitude that bouies the whole experience (even if the last story might go on a bit too long).
Additionally, Lauren Cornelius’ Dodo just continues to shine alongside Noonan. Admittedly, I think Dodo spends a bit too much time away from the Doctor in this follow-up set. But that does nothing to dim the wattage and just pure charm that radiates from Cornelius’ performance throughout. Even better, Ayres and Briggs spend considerable time exploring Dodo’s state of mind and reactions to this set’s action. Finally, giving Dodo the story spotlight she deserves. And further allowing Cornelius the room to explore the character and her continually evolving dynamic with The First Doctor. I can only hope this is a trend that continues into the incoming set.
ESPECIALLY after The Demon Song’s MONSTER of a cliffhanger. Which is way, way too good to spoil here.
Despite falling into a few classic Classic Doctor Who pitfalls (separation of the Doctor/Companion for a bit too long and a few languid stretches of the finale story), The Demon Song is a strong, slickly produced sophomore box set for this new First Doctor and Dodo era. We have a good mixture of contemporary and historical storytelling hooks, plenty of grand adventure, and, most importantly, a sparkling, immensely charming Doctor and Companion dynamic to anchor the whole experience.
Culminating in another rich First Doctor experience to stand alongside a continually strong new “Classic Era” output from Big Finish Productions.
Doctor Who: The First Doctor Adventures: The Demon Song is available now from Big Finish Productions.