Doctor Who
The Reaping

Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 14.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 84435 196 1
ISBN-10: 1 84435 196 3
Available 18 September 2006

On the morning of 9 May 1984, Peri woke up. She was expecting to spend the day relaxing on Lanzarote and, that evening, leave her mother and stepfather to go travelling with some guys she'd only just met. But things don't always go as expected - as her friends and family discover when, four months later, she returns home having travelled further than anyone could have imagined. Meanwhile her friend, Katherine Chambers, mourns her father, and Peri finds herself meeting some other familiar faces...

I was never very happy with the way in which Perpugilliam Brown exited the television series in 1986. Apparently assassinated during The Trial of a Time Lord, we are later told that she in fact married the alien warrior king Yrcanos. Not only are these events shrouded in uncertainty, in terms of which incidents are true and which mere falsifications for the purposes of the Doctor's trial, but I couldn't really see the life of a warrior queen as a fitting or satisfying fate for the young botanist.

Though other narratives, such as Colin Baker's comic strip The Age of Chaos and Matthew Jones's New Adventures novel Bad Therapy, have attempted to redress the balance in their various ways, Joseph Lidster's The Reaping finally gives Peri (Nicola Bryant) the homecoming she deserves - though by necessity it can only be a temporary one. Here at last we meet her mother Janine (Babylon 5's Claudia Christian), her friends and the eccentric Mrs Van Gysegham (Denise Bryer), whom Janine met on Lanzarote (as mentioned in Planet of Fire).

We learn that Peri's stepfather Howard is no longer on the scene, though there is no hint of the sexual abuse that Simon A Forward and Craig Hinton suggested in their respective novels Shell Shock and SynthespiansTM. Peri even appears to feel sympathy for her stepfather, muttering the words "Poor Howard", though this might just be to keep the truth hidden from her friend Kathy (Jane Perry).

The companion's brief homecoming is evidently inspired by the frequent return visits made by Rose Tyler in the new television series. Gone are the days in which assistants would happily leave home forever with nary a thought for those they leave behind. Like Jackie Tyler in the television show, Janine is concerned for her daughter's safety and notices how Peri's travels have changed her.

Fans of the new series may be a little disappointed to hear that the Cybermen do not utter their current catchphrase, "Delete", though, as with the new-style monsters, we do get to hear their clanking footsteps. The writer works in other Cyber-catchphrases from throughout their history, including "You will be like us", "Excellent" and "There is nothing to fear" (the last from Big Finish's Cyberman series). Like the Borg in Star Trek, these Cybermen are obsessed with perfection and have apparently developed the means to convert people with a simple injection. These are advanced Cybermen from the future, so the depiction of a 1980s model on the front cover is perhaps a little misleading.

That aside, though, there are plenty of benefits to be reaped from this intriguing and atmospheric Sixth Doctor/Peri/Cyber-adventure.

Richard McGinlay

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