Doctor Who
The Dark Flame

Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP 13.99
ISBN 1 84435 025 8, BFPDWCDSS4
Available now

A thousand years ago, the legendary Cult of the Dark Flame infiltrated every star system in the galaxy. But for some, the evil flame still burns. On a lifeless planet, an archaeologist and his robot uncover a dangerous relic of the Cult...

Way back in 1985, Michael Praed was the arch enemy of Doctor Who, since his Robin of Sherwood series was regularly stealing viewers from Colin Baker's Doctor. So it's kind of appropriate that he should now play one of the Time Lord's adversaries in this audio adventure. Praed affects a guttural tone of voice and is appropriately sinister as Professor Slyde (for Slyde, read "snide"), and there is never any doubt that he will prove to be a bad guy.

But what of the main source of evil, the titular Dark Flame, which manifests itself in this tale? Does the concept of an ancient force of darkness from another dimension, which is resurrected on an apparently dead world, sound familiar at all? If you have read Fear of the Dark, January's Doctor Who novel from BBC Books, then it should, because pretty much the same thing happened in that story too. What makes the repetition even more inexcusable is that The Dark Flame is written by the very same author, Trevor Baxendale.

I was also a little concerned about the name of a C3PO-style snooty robot (played by Steven Wickham), but his inclusion here turns out to be a deliberate move.

As a fan of Virgin Books' much-missed New Adventures novels, it's good to hear the Big Finish team taking another side step into that world (their previous such excursion was The Shadow of the Scourge). Lisa Bowerman is as witty as ever as Bernice Summerfield, readily exchanging banter with the villains. She does mispronounce "Ogron", though - shame on you!

This story isn't as enjoyable as The Shadow of the Scourge, but it will still fan the flames of many a fan's passions.

Richard McGinlay

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