The Lost Stories series has been somewhat of a mixed bag. The stories with the Second, Sixth and Seventh Doctors have been among some of the best work that Big Finish has ever done. But the stories with the Fifth Doctor haven’t been very great, and of the previous two First Doctor ones I’ve heard, one was pretty good while the other was confusing. Now I’ve heard a third, and it is, I am sorry to say, not everything I’d hoped for.
“The Masters of Luxor” has gone down in Doctor Who lore as being one of the great lost stories. It was originally planned to air as the second full story of the series, right after “An Unearthly Child”. But there were delays and setbacks and eventually the second story aired was “The Daleks”. From there, Doctor Who history was made, and no one gave much of this story a second thought, or at least not until recently. Now, thanks to Big Finish, we can find out what this story might have been like had it been broadcast and we can, perhaps, breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn’t.
The story features the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan arriving on a distant planet after detecting a mysterious signal. There they find food laid out for them and robots who believe them to be the titular Masters of Luxor. Then they encounter the Perfect One and things go all pear-shaped, as we knew they would.
I wanted to really get into this story, knowing that it had an important place in Who lore. But, man, it totally failed to suck me in. My mind was constantly wandering to basically anything else. Part of this was the narrative “companion chronicles” style that the story uses, where we have William Russell (who played Ian on the series), voicing almost all the male characters while Carole Ann Ford (who played Susan), voicing all the female ones, and then the two taking turns narrating everything else. This is never a format I care for, and while it can occasionally work very well, when it fails, it fails hard.
It also suffers from a problem that a lot of early Who stories suffered from in that it’s way too long and features too much padding. Now that’s almost acceptable when you’re doing a weekly TV series, and doing this one as six parts might have worked well on TV. It doesn’t work well in audio format. Three hours of the narrative style is just way too long.
That said, I will admit that Ford and Russell, as well as guest star Joe Kloska, do an excellent job in their roles. Ford in particular stands out for doing such a great job of returning to the voice she used when playing Susan nearly fifty years ago, and her Barbra voice is quite excellent. Russell does the same good work channeling Ian, though not quite as good with the Doctor.
All in all, this isn’t a bad story, but it isn’t what I’d hoped for given the hype. There are better First Doctor lost stories out there (“Farewell, Great Macedon” was the good one I mentioned above), and if you really have a craving for First Doctor fun with narration, you can probably pick up some of the companion chronicles at a lower price and get your fix that way. This story, while showing a lot of potential, just isn’t worth your time.
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