Aside from original audio villains – a personal favourite being The Forge (For King And Country!) – and reuse of some of the more famous recurring villains from televised Doctor Who like The Master, The Daleks or The Cybermen, one of Big Finish’s strengths and something which fans of the audio releases quite look forward to is seeing what one off adversaries from Doctor Who’s fifty plus year history will be brought back in the audios and either recharacterised or given greater depth.
Sometimes the reappearance is well hidden until the end of the cliffhanger reveal like with the first reappearance of The Meddling Monk – an opponent from the show’s early days in the mid 1960s who has since reappeared several times in Big Finish stories – and sometimes the reappearance is used for marketing or name value. Such was the case when the Voc Robots from the fan favourite Tom Baker story The Robots Of Death were initially brought back for the well liked Seventh Doctor audio Robophobia. Given the substantial success of Robophobia it makes all the sense in the world that Big Finish decided to reunite them with the Fourth Doctor and Louise Jameson’s Leela.
The Sons of Kaldor is somewhat different however to the Big Finish stories I have reviewed so far. Unlike those ones this story was originally released in a box set with three other stories to create the first half of a ‘season’ of Fourth Doctor stories. In most cases stories released in box set format are not available separately however Big Finish do make the releases that comprise each ‘season’ of Fourth Doctor and Tenth Doctor adventures available individually. As such I feel comfortable reviewing The Sons of Kaldor as my readers could potentially purchase this adventure with no need to worry about paying for the box set.
The story has somewhat of a classic hook. The Doctor and Leela find themselves on a seemingly abandoned spacecraft on an alien world. After encountering the ship’s crew of sorts – The Voc Robots from the planet of Kaldor – they realise someone or something is trying to get inside and they have been dropped in the middle of a rather intense political situation. But what happened to the humans on board? Who or what is trying to get into the ship? And why do the Voc Robots not remember where they are or what their designated mission is?
This story is traditional Doctor Who at its finest. Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are terrific together and their chemistry is clear in how their respective performances bounce off each other. It very much matches the tone of the era when they were both on TV together. Alongside the two leads the guest cast is equally well performed. Martha Cope as the Kaldoran Commander effortlessly conveys her initially militaristic – and later on very understanding if curious and somewhat confused – mindset. Oliver Dimsdale as the story’s antagonist comes across suitably vindictive and rather reminiscent of the mob mentality as seen throughout history. He is a wonderfully hateable villain. The Voc Robots – without giving away plot spoilers as the story is not particularly long – sound as good as they ever did. Toby Hadoke’s V26 and John Dorney’s SV9 are both excellently performed and have quite the spark in them!
The story may only be a two-parter since it was part of the separate range of releases for the Fourth Doctor as opposed to the main monthly range releases which follow the traditional Doctor Who four-parter format however the story is very entertaining and Andrew Smith (author of previous Doctor Who TV story Full Circle) feels right at home. The story is very well written with a fantastic flow and before you even know it the end credit music is playing! The plot does make the assumption that you know what the Voc Robots are but even if you don’t the characters discuss previous events in such a way that I believe first time listeners would have all the important information they require. The political machinations involved in the plot as well as the multiple questions given to the listener at the start are all answered to this listener’s satisfaction and I’m glad to hear that the Voc Robots will soon be returning in more audio adventures.
I wouldn’t say The Sons Of Kaldor is an absolute classic (it’s not up there with Spare Parts, The Conscript, or The Chimes of Midnight) but it is a very good story nonetheless. The sound design and music by Jamie Robertson also add to the rather creepy vibe this story can give off at points. I highly recommend this adventure and it has become one of the stories I will go back to every now and then when I feel in the mood for something that is truly classic Doctor Who.
If I have caught your interest there is a trailer for the story on the Big Finish website as well as for all other available releases. I hope I have persuaded some of you to join me as Big Finish listeners. They have quite the extensive archive which should keep anyone interested for quite some time!