A Review by John Wilson 8/8/01
Interesting. Initially this comes across as something of a "sort of/what-if" story. What if, instead of landing on Titan III in The Twin Dilemma, the newly-regenerated Sixth Doctor landed on this planet instead and followed through on his plan to become a hermit? That being the case, this story begins a few months (or maybe years) later, when a distraught Ms. Brown (an older Peri with an English accent) leaves the Stranger to his self-pitying contemplation. In the true fashion of a Doctor Who companion she immediately falls into some sort of trouble by coming across a surreal cocktail party hosted by an older debonair man (played by Michael "Davros" Wisher). Meanwhile, a young deaf mute's girlfriend is mesmerized and spirited away to a work party by an illusionist clown (also played by Wisher). After receiving no help from the town's elder (again Wisher - the guy's prolific), the mute seeks the Strangers help. The Stranger is initially deaf (no pun intended) to the young man's pleas, but eventually decides to help him.
The Doctor Who ties run even deeper when the Stranger and the young man are captured by the primary villain - the Controller, who looks suspiciously like the Deadly Assassin version of the Master. The Master's propensity for disguises is echoed in the fact that the illusionist, the town elder, and the party host are all aspects of the Controller. I'm not knocking the Who-ish aspects of the story. In fact, I enjoyed them. The story was a simple run-around, but it was a treat to see Nicola Bryant and Colin Baker (proving once again what a great Doctor he could have been without the clownish clothes and outside interference). At the end of the story, as the Stranger and Ms. Brown were walking away, for one brief moment I believed that they were headed to the TARDIS. Worth a look. Recommended if you're a Colin Baker fan.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 23/9/04
The first Stranger video is a fairly lightweight and unassuming production. BBV know their market - it's Who fans. Thus the production feels like Who, but not quite Who. It's great to see Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant together again, as the Stranger and Miss Brown - but they don't quite have the same impact as their more famous alter egos.
The story is a simple one. An alien has crashed on a backwater planet, and needs the locals to help him find the missing pieces of the ship. The alien is a sort of conjurer figure, and he is using the locals against their wishes - putting them under some kind of trance. Eventually the Stranger is enlisted to help, forcing himself out of the miserable hermit-like existence he seems to have settled into.
Christian Darkin's story is straightforward, and there's nothing wrong with that. The direction is pretty good overall, with Special FX used well. It's to the main actors that the main interest lies - we all like to see our favourites in other programmes after all - and this is more DW-like than most productions.
Colin Baker is very good as the Stranger, and I am intrigued now to know where this series goes. I have watched the stories out of order - but it's time to go back and see how things develop. The presence of Colin Baker throughout is enough to make this very worthwhile.
Nicola Bryant pops up less than Colin on TV, so her presence in this (and the next two Stranger series) is wonderful. She looks stunning in her ballgown - the surreal party effective simply for that reason alone!
Michael Wisher is the other DW alumni on show here, he's the villain of the piece. The Conjurer feels like he should be in Doctor Who, particularly Greatest Show in the Galaxy. A good Who villain in a good spin-off.
At just over half an hour Summoned by Shadows is just a nice length. It's not as good as proper Doctor Who, but this series will be far from Who by the time it is finished - so the comparison is unworthy. I'm quite interested now to rediscover the rest of the Stranger series after this reasonably effective opener. 6/10