I loved the Eighth Doctor plays so much, I put my money where my mouth was and bought the entire run of the fourth series when it was on sale. Thus, I can finally go back to listen to the stories I missed. This I did, beginning with Nevermore and Book of Kells.
I was quite upset when I heard there was going to be a play called Nevermore, given that it probably involved the Doctor meeting Edgar Allan Poe. Upset, because I’d already written two versions of this, firstly with the Seventh Doctor and Ace, then with the Tenth Doctor and Martha. But Nevermore is not a historical (though it has some throwback elements) and the rather unlikely plot seems more suited to the NA novels than the other stories in the season. Nevertheless, I found it fairly enjoyable. It was heavy on the Poe, with long extracts from his work. Were they really necessary? Perhaps, but perhaps it was just enough for a Master and Margarita-like giant black cat to be terrifying people on a prison planet, with the Doctor stuck in The Pit and the Pendulum and Tamsin buried alive. I did love the giant raven-robots, though they did start to sound like Daleks after awhile. I must say I was not entirely happy with their rendering of Poe during the short scenes the Doctor related, when he apparently did meet with Poe during the last week of the writer’s life. (I prefer to think the Doctor was embellishing on the truth and that the version of events actually fits my canon :-).)
I enjoyed The Book of Kells somewhat more, and it has the distinction of having inspired me to read the first Sister Fidelma mystery, which afforded me much pleasure. I was looking forward to listening to it before that, given it was a historical, set in a period rarely portrayed in mainstream fiction (whether on TV or audio), and not somewhere the Doctor has gone very much before. I’ve also seen the Book of Kells in Dublin, and although I wasn’t aware there was a mystery regarding its disappearance for a few months in the 11th century (some 350 years after the events of Absolution by Murder and some 60 years before “The Time Meddler” takes place), that makes it an even better setting for Barnaby Edwards to embroider upon.
Kells has a complex mission, much of which I wouldn’t have been aware of if I hadn’t listened to it out of sequence. It’s telling the story of the illumination of the manuscript, the journeying of Norse King Sitric to pre-empt war with Brian Balloo, allowing Tamsin to show off her acting skills (as Sister Maria from Salzburg!), and showing the Doctor that he can sometimes be very, very wrong. Also, they see some definite signs of time meddling. SPOILERS Also Lucie Miller is right under everyone’s noses as Brother Lucianus, but even with the voice-changer people have GOT to know something’s up. /SPOILERS
Having to perform all this, there isn’t a huge amount of room left for historical considerations, so much of the follow up I was expecting from Absolution by Murder (I read/listened to them concurrently) never materialized. Book of Kells is perhaps one story that didn’t need to be the cut-down length of the Eighth Doctor Adventures.