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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who


Starring: Peter Davison
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 472 6
Available 31 July 2010

You know what cobwebs mean - spiders…” In search of a cure for a sickness that’s so far claimed six billion lives, scientist Nyssa arrives at an abandoned gene-tech facility on the toxic planet Helheim. “Hellhole”, more like. However, Nyssa is not alone. The TARDIS has also been drawn to the Helheim base - and in its cobweb-coated corridors, she soon runs into the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough, her travelling companions of half a century past. Who, or what, has engineered this strange reunion - the Black Guardian, perhaps? The answer is here, in the darkness... with the Cractids... in the cobwebs...

Here’s an exciting development for fans of ’80s Who: the return of Janet Fielding as Tegan Jovanka, in the first of a trilogy of monthly appearances, alongside Peter Davison’s Doctor, Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa and Mark Strickson’s Turlough. Barring her one-off reappearance in The Gathering, Fielding has hitherto resisted resurrecting Tegan, but she has finally relented, thanks to the charming sentiment of not wanting to let her old colleagues down. Despite the passage of time, she slips straight back into the role, bitching about the dank surroundings and bickering with her male companions, particularly Turlough. All four cast members seem re-energised now that the old team is back together to bounce off one another.

The chronological placement of this trilogy is unusual. Rather than going for the easy options of reuniting Fielding with Davison and Sutton for adventures set between Arc of Infinity and Snakedance, or with Davison and Strickson for stories set during Season 21, Big Finish has placed the trilogy between Enlightenment and The King’s Demons. Nyssa crosses paths with her former travelling companions decades after she left them at the end of Terminus. This actually makes more sense than setting the story between Mawdryn Undead and Terminus, because the fact that Turlough was still working for the Black Guardian at that point would have made character development tricky to say the least.

Conversely, the gap between Enlightenment and The King’s Demons is ideal for exploring the relationship between Tegan and Turlough. In The King’s Demons, Tegan seems to have just about accepted the schoolboy’s presence, despite having discovered in Enlightenment that he had been under orders to kill the Doctor. Here she voices her objections in no uncertain terms, though I dare say that she’ll warm to the lad - a little - over forthcoming releases.

For ever looking on the gloomy side of life, Tegan asks the Doctor, as the TARDIS is dragged down towards Helheim, whether this could be a Black Guardian trap, the same question she poses at the beginning of The King’s Demons. I wonder whether she’s going to ask him that every month...!

Having a companion rejoin the series, as Nyssa does here, is not unprecedented, owing to the phoney departure and subsequent return of Tegan in Time-Flight and Arc of Infinity. However, here the twist is that much more time has passed for Nyssa (50 years) than has for the TARDIS crew (only the events of Enlightenment). Writer Jonathan Morris establishes that Trakenites age more slowly than humans, a theory that fans have toyed with as a way of reconciling the disparity of the Doctor’s age between the Tom Baker and Colin Baker eras, taking into account the number of years Nyssa could have travelled with the Time Lord between Time-Flight and Arc of Infinity.

Morris’s script emulates the era about which he is writing: arguments among the TARDIS crew, uninviting corridors, and the grittiness of secondary characters’ threats to the lives of the regulars. Adrian Lukis stands out among the guest cast, appearing to relish his role as the antagonistic Enforcement Officer Bragg. However, as is usually the case with this writer’s plots, there’s a variation - and, as is often the case with this writer’s plots, it concerns the complexities of time travel. The nature of the story changes with each episode of this four-part tale, though it always returns to essentially the same cliffhanger, the seemingly inescapable fate of the time travellers. The resolution is suitably self-fulfilling - its timey-wimey intricacy would do Steven Moffat proud!

This two-CD release also contains ten minutes of Steve Foxon’s gripping incidental music at the end of Disc One and fifteen minutes of interviews with the cast and crew at the end of Disc Two.

This audio drama effectively dusts the cobwebs off a favoured era of children of the ’80s - myself included.


Richard McGinlay

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