Review by Jacob Licklider
Let’s all be honest, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many industries, including the arts and avenues of entertainment, to grind to a halt; whilst there is plenty of misinformation about the
pandemic itself around. With television and film delays and potential cancellations, you would think that a small company like Big Finish Productions wouldn’t be able to keep up, but because they are small they’re able to keep going and find creative workarounds through the quarantines. Shadow of the Sun is the second release to come because of the pandemic and the first to feature a full cast. Originally planned to be recorded and released in the thirteenth series of Fourth Doctor Adventures, the recording for ‘Shadow of the Sun’ was adjusted so it could be done at the homes of the cast and crew remotely. As such props must be given and hats must be taken off to Toby Hrycek-Robinson for his hard work at assembling the pieces of this story from the various sources and editing them in a way that everything remains at the usual sound quality of Big Finish Productions. Luckily the only technical fault was the quality of the interview with Tom Baker in the bonus features (which have an extended option when purchased through the Big Finish website). The only aspect of the production which may have suffered from the remote recording and release within a month was Jamie Robertson’s score as many of the tracks used have been featured before. This works whenever leitmotifs are used; however, it makes a lot of the music sound very familiar. This isn’t a bad thing, especially considering the quick turnaround time, but if one is familiar with the range they may find it lacking.
Robert Valentine provides the script for Shadow of the Sun, unintentionally drawing on the COVID-19 pandemic for inspiration. The behind the scenes interviews imply that the state of
the world just happened to coincide with a time where people are vehemently believing insane conspiracies as are the characters of Shadow of the Sun. The story is set on a luxury star-liner
which is heading straight towards a sun, and the scary part is that none of the passengers seem very bothered. The Doctor, Leela, and K9 arrive after the TARDIS is damaged and slowly
unravel the mystery of this liner; why are people having a cocktail party while the ship heads towards a sun and who is committing murders and kidnappings? And why does nobody actually
seem to care what happens to them? Valentine’s script begins as incredibly witty with Fenella Woolgar, Paul Herzberg, and John Leeson are all having an excellent time with the dialogue, and the listener can’t help but enjoy the humour. This humour, however, comes across with a dark edge as the story goes on and the danger becomes more real. Valentine ends the story on a dark note, with a twist that is perhaps a bit too obvious, but effective, nevertheless. It casts a reflection on the current state of the world with conspiracies about the 5G network and the Pandemic documentary spreading anti-vaccination propaganda connected to COVID-19, only making society more scared of conspiracy and corruption and placing mistrust in doctors.
Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are both on top form; energised by the fact that they’re both performing while in lockdown. The Doctor and Leela take some time in this story to reflect on
their time with one another, Valentine providing each their own perspective, each perspective being a valid analysis of Leela’s time in the TARDIS. Baker and Jameson have their usual level of excellent chemistry and the script reflects that relationship between one another. John Leeson provides his usual K9 and portrays Professor Nicely, one of the early murder victims, crafting a
caricature in his single scene to get the audience on his side. Nicholas Briggs is in the director’s chair as is standard for this range and he does an excellent job at it, making each character make an impact and each scene hits.
Overall, Shadow of the Sun straddles the line between an hour of entertainment for these trying times, and a commentary on these times that may have the power to change minds before people fall into their own suns. 8/10.
Check out our Big Finish reviews!