Doctor Who
The Roof of the World

Starring: Peter Davison
Big Finish Productions
RRP 13.99
ISBN 1 84435 097 5
Available 02 August 2004

Tibet, 1917. Ancient evils are stirring in the Himalayas. They have always known they will return one day to finish what they started centuries before. When the TARDIS materialises, carrying the Doctor, Peri and Erimem, the catalyst that the dark forces need unwittingly arrives...

Oh dear. Poor Peter Davison doesn't seem to be doing too well in terms of scripts for his recent Big Finish audio adventures. I wasn't overly impressed with his previous outing, The Axis of Insanity, or with Nekromanteia, the last Fifth Doctor/Peri/Erimem story before that. Neither am I over-enamoured with this one.

In its favour, The Roof of the World shows us a different side of Tibet to the one we got in the Troughton serial The Abominable Snowmen, taking us through frozen mountain passes but also to a cricket match held for the benefit of explorers, which characteristically attracts the Doctor's attention. These explorers include a blustering old war veteran, General Alexander Bruce, whose character arc is well played by Sylvester Morand.

Writer Adrian Rigelsford also explores Erimem's past, including as part of the process an effective cameo by her father, Pharaoh Amenhotep II (William Franklyn, who is soon to be heard as the voice of the book in the new series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). The second episode, in which this cameo takes place, makes a nice change from the usual practice of simply picking up with a recap from the previous instalment.

Rigelsford recognises the value of Erimem (Caroline Morris) as a companion who, being unique to the Big Finish range, can convincingly be threatened with death. However, similar threats to Peri (Nicola Bryant) and the Doctor don't work as well, for the obvious reason that we know they will survive, and Erimem's "time out" is far too similar to the Doctor's trip to the other side in Nekromanteia.

Less forgivably, the nature of the evil forces that are faced by the time travellers could really have done with more explanation of their background. Vague comments about "Old Ones" might stir the memories of fans who have read the right New and Missing Adventures, but dramatically that just isn't good enough.

The Roof of the World aims high, but falls short of its target.

Richard McGinlay

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