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Last of the Romanovs was the second and final story in the audio anthology The First Doctor Adventures: Volume Four. It was written by Jonathan Barnes and featured David Bradley as the First Doctor, Claudia Grant as Susan Foreman, Jamie Glover as Ian Chesterton and Jemma Powell as Barbara Wright.

Briefed by Producer David Richardson with writing a "season one First Doctor pure historical", Barned pitched three ideas, with Richardson ultimately gravitating towards the storyline about the Romanovs in 1918. Barnes viewed the story as the kind of "gritty and hopeless... too-real historical tragedy" almost entirely devoid of science-fiction elements which only a very early version of Doctor Who in 1963 and 1964 was likely to tackle, (VOR 132) though he also envisioned the story as one that could have been made had pure historical serials lasted for a few more seasons. (BFX: Last of the Romanovs)

Publisher's summary[]

The TARDIS lands on Earth near to an eerie and familiar house... with the only witness a regal man watching from inside through a broken window.

Leaving the ship the crew immediately find themselves in trouble - because they have landed in Ekaterinburg early in the twentieth century.

The man inside the house is Nicholas, the last Tsar of Russia, imprisoned with his family... and one of the most notorious crimes in history is just about to happen.


The Shattered Pane (1)[]

Nicholas, the former Tsar of Russia, smashes a darkened window in his house of imprisonment to peer at the outside world. Yakov Yurovsky arrives and arranges for the window to be fixed but not before Nicholas witnesses the arrival of the TARDIS outside. 

The Doctor and Ian leave the ship to investigate while Barbara searches for Susan. As the men head across the street towards a boarded up house, soldiers surround them and demand to see their papers. Barbara finds Susan and wakes her from her meditation and they try to rescue the Doctor and Ian, but to no avail. The latter two are arrested and taken away to be put to work readying the town's defences before the White Army and Czech forces arrive. It is 1918 and their present location, Ekaterinburg, is about to become the front lines in a civil war which will give birth to the Soviet Union.

 In the house, Nicholas' daughter, Anastasia, joins her father and watches the events unfold through the broken window. The once-all-powerful Tsar is helpless to assist them. Briefly, Anastasia and Susan catch sight of each other and Susan notices the fear in her eyes.

 Barbara and Susan try to return to the safety of the TARDIS, only to find that it has been removed from the area.

The House of Special Purpose (2)[]

A stranger approaches Barbara and Susan and inquires about whether they are seeking for a lost blue box. He takes them to his office and introduces himself as the British Consul in Ekaterinburg, Thomas Preston. He offers to tell the travellers where the TARDIS is if they can do something for him in return.

While they are transported away by their captors, the Doctor and Ian meet another prisoner, a chimney sweep named Makerenkov, who claims he has no love for either side of the conflict. They are set to work digging trenches to withstand the coming siege. As the work goes on, the Doctor collapses. Grigory Nikulin tends to him after overhearing he is a doctor and takes him elsewhere.

In Ipatiev House, Anastasia reads about the French Revolution. She remembers stories her father told her about the Scarlet Pimpernel who rescued the royals from danger. She dares to hope that her family may still be rescued too.

Preston confirms the Romanov family is being held as political prisoners in the "House of Special Purpose". Barbara knows the Bolsheviks ultimately intend to kill them. But Preston believes Barbara and Susan may be able to rescue the former Royal Family by sending them in disguised as nuns on a reconnaissance mission. Remembering the fear on Anastasia's face, Susan accepts the mission and convinces Barbara too.

Yurovsky informs Nicholas that he is awaiting the arrival of an order regarding the family's situation by the end of the day. Nicholas is introduced to the Doctor who is to take on medical responsibilities.

The Execution Order (3)[]

The White and Czech forces arrive and the workers are forced to defend the trenches without weapons, only their spades and tools. Ian and Makerenkov come under fire but manage to flee during a lull in the fighting. On the outskirts of town, Makerenkov reveal he is a counter-revolutionary intent on saving the Royals from captivity before the Bolsheviks execute them. However, a guard overhear them and prepare to execute them for desertion. Ian pretends to be an agent of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, distracting the guard enough to knock him out.

The Doctor determines Nicholas is medically healthy despite the living conditions. Nicholas appeals for help but the Doctor regrets that he cannot intervene. Susan and Barbara gain entry to Ipatiev House just after the Doctor is removed. They meet Anastasia who asks Susan if they are here to save her family. She draws them a plan of the house.

Preston's diary, dated 16 July 1918, records the feeling that everyone is on the edge of a precipice.

Yurovsky brings the Doctor to a nearby forest once used for mining. His orders demand that he kill the Romanovs and he intends to throw their corpses into a deep mine shaft. The Doctor voices his disapproval at the idea that the Romanovs deserve to be executed and warns Yurovsky that the Bolshevik state will grow to be responsible for generations of industrialised slaughter. A part of Yurovsky hoped that the Doctor may dissuade him from the action but he is still perfectly content to carry it out. His order consists of two innocuous words: "Chimney Sweep".

Ian and Makerenkov make their way towards Ipatiev House. Makerenkov believes that soon, "it will all be over."

The Waiting Cellar (4)[]

As Yurovsky drives him back to Ipatiev House, the Doctor finds himself disgusted about "the terrible justice of history" and considers whether he must stay bound by his rules.

Susan and Barbara pray with Nicholas and Anastasia, then Nikulin arrives to escort them out. They return to the Consulate, Barbara uncertain they can truly help the Romanovs. Preston begins questioning Ian and Makerenkov when they arrive and give their report. There seems few prospects of escape for the family. Leaving the Consulate, Preston is shot by Makerenkov, who was a Bolshevik agent all along.

Susan, Ian and Barbara chase Makerenkov towards Ipatiev House, where they are joined by the Doctor and Yurovsky. Makerenkov delivers the words "Chimney Sweep" to Yurovsky, who recognises their meaning. As the Doctor and his companions protest, Nicholas appears and is aware of what his fate is to be. He appeals for the travellers to be allowed to go. The Doctor warns the Bolsheviks that the act they are about to commit will become one of national infamy but acknowledges they have no choice and they depart. They make for the Consulate to find the TARDIS, before the Bolsheviks issue orders that they are all to be killed. Nikulin pursues them and they run.

Yurovsky instructs Nicholas to inform his family they are to be moved but Nicholas sees through the euphemism. Although accepting of his fate, Nicholas challenges the Bolshevik worldview, pointing out they are no less brutal than the empires they claim to oppose. Yurovsky accepts this and acknowledges that his cause too has simply become another prisoner of the course of history, but feels the events in motion are now too far ahead to be stopped.

The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara reach the TARDIS as it materialises in front of the Consulate and they flee 1918. Unable to comprehend what he sees, Nikulin decides to forget they were ever a part of anything. The Doctor concludes that the TARDIS hid itself in accordance with the rules of time.

The Doctor tells Ian and Barbara that the execution of the Romanovs is one atrocity that will lead to thousands more, but one day after their native time period, the Soviet Union will collapse and a better world may be built.

Nicholas tells Anastasia they are to be moved but she does not believe him. Frightened, they hug each other.

Barbara comforts Susan, whose mood quickly brightens when she remembers she taught Anastasia how to mediate and slow her heartbeat. Barbara feels that will not be enough to save Anastasia but Susan finds comfort in the fact that she was able to make even a small change.

In the console room, the Doctor is shaken by the experience and tells Ian that despite all his long-held beliefs, perhaps they do have a duty to intervene and that one day, he may have to change. For now, they prepare to move on. Suddenly, the TARDIS powers down.




Alternate cover.

  • The Last of the Tsars by Robert Service was among the historical literature used by Jonathan Barnes to aid in the writing process. (VOR 132)
  • According to Barnes, Director Ken Bentley sought to make the recording "sound as close as possible to a lost television soundtrack." (VOR 132)
  • Barnes had other ideas he would have liked to included in the story, including Rasputin in particular, but such ideas were dropped as they did not fit in with the historical order of events. (VOR 132) Rasputin is mentioned in the story, although not by name.
  • Bentley claimed that, compared with the "straightforward" casting process of Return to Skaro, Last of the Romanovs was made "tricky" by the debate on the use of accents in audio dramas. He believed it was important for listeners to be able to distinguish between the English and Russian characters present in the story. He made a point of casting at least one actor who could speak Russian and had lived in the country (John Albasiny) in order to have someone present who could advise others on pronunciation and dialect. (VOR 132)


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