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“You see here, Leela?”
“It is an empty floor, in a big empty room.”
“…You wish to solve this mystery?”
“Well, why not, I’ve got nothing else on this morning!”

Leela’s having nightmares, the sort that leave her disturbed long after waking.  The Doctor knows something’s up, but she’s playing her cards close to her tunic…

Landing on an abandoned luxury liner, they discover a body that disintegrates on touch, leading them directly into one of deep space’s great mysteries.

“So, what are you, pirates?”
“Stowaways, escaped convicts, vagabonds, tramps, thieves, gypsies – no, none of the above.  We’re just travellers.”
“…what’s that, friends of yours?”
“What, the other pirates, you mean?  Careful, Calvert, we might make you walk the plank…”

What is the secret of the Moray Rose, and where did all its passengers and cargo disappear to?  Why is Leela being forced to revisit some significant repressed childhood trauma?  And what does the Master have to do with all of this?

“Alright, Doctor.  So you think you know what’s going on here.”
“I’m only making wild guesses, based on several hundred years of unparalleled practical experience, so please – don’t feel obliged to take any notice.”

Wow, I really wasn’t expecting to see Vila crossing over to Who territory!

Yes, Michael Keating himself delivers his typically loveable and eubellient persona to the role of insurance investigator Calvert here, and he proves as self-willed and anarchic as ever (albeit minus the trademark streak of cowardice of his more famed Blakes’ 7 role).  A walking advertisement for the Labour movement, he’s devoted to his job and coworkers, but does not hesitate to stand up (and when pushed, walk) when management decisions prove to be more than a bit dicey if not downright callous.

Big Finish brings yet another Who veteran into the fold, with Gareth Armstrong (of the televised Tom Baker era Masque of Mandragora) making only his second appearance in Who-related audio here as the cold hearted, number crunching corporate bastard Arthley (he’d previously appeared as Dr. Drossel in the Paul McGann/Mary Shelley cybermen adventure The Silver Turk).

“No matter how intricately you disguise your features, your true emaciated form isn’t far below the surface…is it, Master?”

Geoffrey Beevers returns with his sinister Decadent take on the Master, one that’s proving to be a decided second best after the role’s defining personage, the late Roger Delgado (and considering just how many folks have essayed the part since his passing, that’s saying quite a lot).

Positively oozing a pointedly cultured form of menace, Beevers delivers a quietly imposing villainy – that of the elitist, one who manipulates from behind the scenes without necessarily getting his own hands caught in the till.  “Dark money” personified…

“I simply brought you here to say…goodbye.”
“I see.  Going on holiday, are you?  They say hades is warm at this time of the year.”

One of the true pleasures every month is hearing the ever warming relationship between Tom Baker’s Doctor and Louise Jameson’s Leela.

For the first time (even dating back to their televised work together nearly four decades since!), the listener can pick up on a palpable affection between the two, going beyond a long overdue mutual respect to what would appear to be a genuinely warm working relationship if not friendship.

Further, both are well appointed to the dual focus on cerebral sci-fi mystery and wry humor Who (and particularly the Baker era thereof) are noted for, deftly switching between grim determination and tension to smirk inducing one liners and silly banter at the drop of a hat.  In all, both Baker and Jameson continue to impress and grow on the listener with each successive release, making the Fourth Doctor Adventures into one of the hallmark lines of the Big Finish Who-niverse.

“It’s all too complicated to explain.”
“You say that because I am stupid…the Master was right.  I am a simple savage, inferior.  It is because I am so…simple that he was able to fill my mind with lies…and turn me against you.
…it is my fault that my mind is so weak and…primitive.”
“Leela…nobody could have resisted that mind control, not even me…or are you determined to wallow in self-pity?”

Both scripted and directed by Big Finish head honcho Nicholas Briggs, this is one hell of an adventure for a story falling outside the main monthly line of Doctor Who adventures.  There’s even a powerful  message about survivor’s guilt to close things out that actually brought a tear to my eye.  How’s that for a story for you?

Filled with the sort of rapid fire dry humor Baker excels at, The Evil One is a cracking example of what the Fourth Doctor Adventures is capable of.  With the sort of interstellar mystery and menace that characterized the spacebound episodes of the Philip Hinchcliffe era combined with the more lighthearted if not tongue in cheek approach of the Graham Williams run, this is certainly one of the most nostalgic episodes in what I’ve been exposed to of the run to date.