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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Emerald Tiger


Starring: Peter Davison
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 627 0
Available 30 April 2012

Tiger, tiger, burning bright / In the forests of the night...” In Calcutta, on the last day of 1926, the Doctor and his companions find themselves unwittingly joining an expedition to locate the fabled emerald tiger, a legendary marvel shrouded in myth and mystery. They must journey to an unexplored lost world filled with wonder and wickedness. But at the centre of this terra incognita, something is stirring - something with emerald eyes, diamond-sharp claws and a heart of darkness...

When the TARDIS arrives at the start of this four-part story, the first in the latest trilogy of tales featuring the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison), Tegan (Janet Fielding), Turlough (Mark Strickson) and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), it seems like the perfect setting for Davison’s Time Lord. As in Black Orchid, the TARDIS materialises on a railway platform in the mid-1920s, and the Doctor has a cricket match in mind.

However, writer / director Barnaby Edwards soon embroils the time-travellers in an escapade unlike any of their television adventures - in terms of budget at least. Only a multi-million-pound production could have brought to the screen what is realised so effectively on audio here, including a runaway train, jewel-encrusted animals, a balloon ride, and a mysterious lost jungle world. The Indiana Jones series springs immediately to mind, but the source materials of those films and Edwards’s other plot elements go back farther than that. In case you don’t pick up on them, the writer has left helpful clues in the names of several of his characters: Haggard (as in H Rider), Burroughs (as in Edgar Rice) and Forster (as in E M). I suppose he might also have included someone called Kipling, except that that author’s Jungle Book is directly referenced in the context of the story.

The situations they encounter might be unusual for this TARDIS crew, but their reactions to them are perfectly in character. The Doctor is delighted at the opportunity to take a trip in a hot-air balloon, and appalled by the unfortunate fates that befall his companions. Nyssa falls victim to a strange disease, but is fascinated by the discoveries she makes. Tegan speaks her mind, as always, and Turlough would really rather not be risking life and limb, thank you very much.

The guest cast are uniformly great as well, particularly Neil Stacy as the utter bounder Major Cyril Haggard, and Vincent Ebrahim as the even more menacing Shardul Khan. Lady Adela Forster (Cherie Lunghi - yes, Cherie Lunghi!) starts off seeming somewhat sinister herself, but her character evolves as we learn more about her and she undertakes an emotional voyage of discovery. Meanwhile, the amiable Professor Naryan (Sam Dastor) makes an excellent temporary companion.

Some reviewers have argued that the plot runs out of steam during the final episode, but I disagree. Having struggled at times to keep up with some of the narrative’s subtleties, I was delighted as certain revelations and solutions to problems clicked into place, making such perfect sense in retrospect that I was kicking myself for not having guessed them beforehand.

The whole affair is backed by a powerhouse soundtrack from Howard Carter - his ten-minute music suite at the end of Disc One is currently playing for the fourth time as I type this!

The Emerald Tiger burns bright / As you listen to it day or night.


Richard McGinlay

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