Sarah Jane Smith
Test of Nerve

Starring: Elisabeth Sladen
Big Finish Productions
RRP 9.99
ISBN 1 903654 94 7, BFPSJSCD03
Available now

Sarah receives a mysterious gift with a sinister message. The London Underground will suffer a terrorist attack unless Sarah can find and stop those responsible. She may have to sacrifice everyone and everything she holds dear in order to save the city...

Writer David Bishop (who recently wrote for the character of Sarah in his Doctor Who novel Amorality Tale) cranks up the tension with his contribution to this spin-off series. Tempers fray as Sarah (Elisabeth Sladen), Josh (Jeremy James) and Natalie (Sadie Miller) confront issues of trust regarding their dangerous lifestyles. Miller in particular benefits from a meatier role during this episode, although James' character remains his usual enjoyably sarcastic self. "Could you be less specific?" he asks Sarah in response to some rather open-ended instructions.

I have something of a fascination for disused London Underground stations, so I was rather pleased to discover that the abandoned Brompton Road station plays a prominent role in this tale.

From the point of view of Who history, rather than rail history, this CD provides strong circumstantial evidence as to how this series might be reconciled with the continuity of the novels. I had previously wondered whether these audio dramas took place before Sarah's wedding in the late 1990s (as mentioned by author Lawrence Miles in Christmas on a Rational Planet and Interference). However, Natalie seems to refer to the Nineties in the past tense, which means that this series is almost certainly set in the Noughties. We can assume, therefore, that the married couple are now either estranged or divorced - maybe the damning allegations made against Sarah in Big Finish's Comeback were a contributing factor to the break-up.

The more topical and less fantastical subject matter (germ warfare) might have something to do with it, but I found this adventure considerably more involving than the previous two. The gripping conclusion proves to be surprising on a number of levels.

Easily the best yet.

Richard McGinlay