Big Finish Folly, Part 59 – The Hollows of Time, by Christopher H Bidmead.
Another week, another holiday! This time, the Tardis is off to sunny Hollowdene, where one of the Doctor’s old friends resides – vicar by day, madcap inventor by night. Old Foxwell is assisting another of his wartime buddies, one Professor Stream… a man who seems remarkably familiar to the Doctor. If only he could remember why… And what are these odd sand creatures young Simon says he saw…?
Unfortunately, we’re back in the realm of undeniably ’80s-originated dramas. The Hollows of Time has the potential to be a riveting battle to win the allegiance of the Tractators, the Doctor pitting his wits against a deadly foe mano é mano against the backdrop of a paceful Middle England country village, just as he did so often in the Pertwee era (and memorably revisited by Mark Gatiss’s BBC novel Last of the Gadarene) – but it drops the ball. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where the play goes wrong; it’s easier to say that it doesn’t engage the listener quite as much as it should. The Tractators are great aliens, opaque and unknowable, but they ain’t exactly locquacious – and so the Doctor has to make an extra effort to explain the movement of the plot.
Professor Stream, meanwhile… well, safe to say that any Whovian with a faint spark of wit will recognise the villain from his alias. A shame that the BBC had that particular character officially off-limits at the time, so Big Finish have had to keep him incognito. That lack of identification dulls the blade somewhat, and also takes the darker contrast from the more naive and Famous Five-stylee Simon. You almost expect Miss Marple to come steaming through the curtains of the vicarage to give cryptic clues to Reverend Foxwell…
Even after having heard the play, I can’t actually remember much about the whys and wherefores of it. The plot has as many loose ends and strange holes as any episode of Lost, and I think that as one of the Lost Stories it hasn’t actually been truly finished. As I say, a bit of a shame, given the caliber of both the writer and the putative villain.**¾