September 27, 2023

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

Doctor Who “The Renaissance Man”

The Fourth Doctor and Layla find problems at a museum.

From what I have gathered, Tom Baker was the last of the living classic Doctors to agree to do Big Finish audio plays.  I mean, my understanding is David Tennant was making more Doctor Who stuff for Big Finish before Baker came back to the role.  It’s not that surprising.  Baker always struck me as the most removed of the former Doctors, the one who wanted to do other things and didn’t go back the role the way the others did.  He sat out the twentieth anniversary multi-Doctor special “The Five Doctors,” he did only a little work by himself in the half-assed 3D multi-Doctor special Dimensions in Time, but for the most part, he’s only recently made his way back to the role, doing a cameo in the 50th anniversary special, and that was about it.

But man, he was everybody’s Doctor for a reason.

The Doctor is spending time trying to educate the tribal warrior woman from the future Leela (Louise Jameson, also reprising her role), and that involves a trip to an alien museum.  Small problem:  they seem to be in a small English village, but there’s more to it than that.  The Doctor soon realizes something about the museum is somehow sapping people of their knowledge.  Experts that they meet suddenly know nothing, and Leela loses her own tracking skills to the mysterious Harcourt and his followers.  The Doctor has his own defenses so his own knowledge will not just leak out of his head, leading Harcourt to seek more direct means of extracting what the Doctor knows.  As it is, sapping people’s knowledge eventually leaves empty husks behind that can be used as archetype exhibits, and that’s assuming the poor victim doesn’t kill themselves first.

Now, if the Doctor is about one thing, it’s about seeking the weird stuff in the world, acting as something of a teacher, but doing so in a manner where no one gets hurt.  Harcourt, or whoever is behind the museum, has no such compunction.  The museum just wants to collect everything.

The problem here is the Doctor realizes that collecting data is not the same thing as knowing.  Data is one thing.  But knowing people is more important, and there’s only so much a person can learn, that the idea of a Renaissance Man is not really an attainable thing.  In fact, that is how the Doctor ultimately saves the day:  he lets the museum and its mysterious backer take information from his brain, but it’s deliberately false information.  What good is knowing everything when some of what is known is blatantly false?

That’s enough to stop the mastermind of the museum.

Oh, and since the story begins and ends with the idea the Doctor is teaching Leela, she does ask why bother if what it isn’t possible to know everything and it could even be wrong.  And the Doctor gives the most Fourth Doctor-appropriate answer possible:  it may not be possible, but it sure is fun trying.

Baker is great in this as I suspected he would be.  Jameson, she sounds a bit older (it has been a few decades), but something about age makes Leela sound even more feral and formidable.  So, really, I had a lot of fun with this one.  I’ll have to get more of Big Finish.

But yeah, let’s look at one of the lesser spin-offs next.