Doctor Who: The Renaissance Man. Audio Book Review

THE RENAISSANCE MAN by Justin Richards

Big Finish, CD £10.99, download £8.99,

Reviewed by Chris Limb

“How does it feel not being the cleverest man in the room?”

Deciding to continue Leela’s education with a visit to the opening of the new Renaissance Gallery at the Morovanian Museum on Morovania Minor, the Doctor is perturbed when instead the TARDIS deposits them both at Reginald Harcourt’s manor house in the English countryside.

Or does it?

As the travellers are shown around Harcourt’s impressive collection it becomes clear that things are not what they seem and it is up to the Doctor to fill in the blanks in more ways than one.

After the launch of the long-awaited Fourth Doctor Adventures range with Destination: Nerva – a traditional Doctor Who tale straight out of the 1977 era in which it was set – Big Finish now present a story that plays to the strengths of the medium of audio itself. As such, The Renaissance Man feels like a quintessential Big Finish production with the distinct voices of the small cast used and reused to good effect in a way that makes perfect sense within the logic of the plot.

The story is a witty and clever one, exploring the differences between knowledge and intelligence; illustrating how all the learning in the universe can mean nothing without the correct context. The bizarrely changing environment in which the Doctor and Leela find themselves is somewhat reminiscent of Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman in places and is well realised through dialogue and sound design alone, the script never having to resort to This Gun In My Right Hand Is Loaded tactics.

Richards captures the personalities and verbal quirks of the TARDIS team well. That said, like his successors before him (!) Tom Baker seems to be developing a distinct persona for his audio Doctor. One that, whilst still absolutely the same man we watched on TV, here displays a more avuncular facet of his personality. This time around Louise Jameson gets to explore the humorous side of Leela’s persona, stumbling over words and misunderstanding situations to comic effect.

Given the changes that overcome their characters, every member of the small guest cast put in a first rate performance. Special mention must be made of Laura Molyneux’s eccentric single-minded academic Professor Hilda Lutterthwaite and finally  of the main villain of the piece Harcourt, played by Ian McNeice (familiar to fans of the current TV series as Churchill), an arrogant and powerful presence who feels like a real threat to the normally nonchalant Doctor…