Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
Once again legendary Doctor Who producer Philip Hinchcliffe is back to Big Finish with another jam packed story, epic in scale.
This time he see’s the 4th Doctor (Tom Baker) and Leela (Louise Jameson) summoned by the Brigadier arriving on a remote Shetland Isle which is in the middle of celebrating an old Norse ritual. But things take a sinister sinister when it would seem far from just an old ceremony. There is an artefact, the titular ‘Helm of Awe’ that is influencing people to do it’s bidding. But what other secrets does this artefact hold and how long has it affected this small isle and it’s people?
This is a very grand story in scope and there is real mythology woven into the fantastical. One of my favourite things about it is how well they have written for Leela. She is one of the companions hardest to write for; as she speaks very simply and savagely, but written correctly you can see a lot more beneath the surface. Ofcourse Louise Jamesons fantastic acting helps, but unless you have a script worthy of her like this one, it can go astray.
I love that she gets to give her people’s war cry and she is sometimes at home with the mythology of war in the story yet at odds with the 70’s world much of this story is set in. She is also with Joanna (Joanna Vanderham) for much of this story and they are just chalk and cheese enough to really have a fun dynamic whilst working mostly on the same side.
As noted on the extras they spoke of how they pared down the story a bit to make it more cohesive. Whereas I did really enjoy this story I felt maybe it could have been boiled down just a little more for flow of story; but as always I say better too much story than too little.
I as always found Tom Baker gave 100% to the 4th Doctor and he does have the odd belter of a line, such as one moment when he talks about clearing out his pockets (I won’t spoil it if you haven’t listened yet, but look out for it). However I found the script was a little light on his usual fast talking and quirky comment a minute style. It is true that he did not always have this, but usually when he did not it was replaced by a darker intensity that was not evident or needed for this tale.
These few quibbles aside I give a lot of credit to Hinchcliffe and Marc Platt who not only wrote this story but really researched it. Having so many little details in it brought it to life. I also just want to give credit to David Rintoul as Professor Renwick, who played evil, grumpy and very human is equal measure very well.
The casting throughout is perfect and my congratulations go to Ken Bentley for getting the right people and the best out of them. And the music was perfect for the era in Doctor Who where this would sit.
All in all a wonderful addition to the 4th Doctor cannon. I give this 7/10 Longboats.
Download here: https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/philip-hinchcliffe-presents-volume-03-the-helm-of-awe-1483
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Check out the rest of our Big Finish reviews!
Big Finish: Phillip Hinchcliffe Presents Doctor Who & The Genesis Chamber