Doctor Who

Starring: Peter Davison
Big Finish Productions
ISBN 1 903654 51 3, BFPDWCD6CD
Available now

Nyssa is desperately ill, so the Doctor takes her to the only place in the universe that might offer a cure. But the inhabitants of this so-called paradise are a surprisingly superstitious people, and distrustful of outsiders. The Doctor may have to make a deal with a devil...

It's difficult to review this audio adventure without giving away a twist near the beginning of the story that Big Finish don't want me to spoil. What I can say is that writer Lance Parkin has picked up the ongoing plot arc developed in The Land of the Dead and Winter for the Adept - that of Nyssa's burgeoning telepathic abilities - and brought it to an entirely satisfactory resolution. He even manages to tie in her fainting incident at the end of Four to Doomsday.

I didn't particularly care for Parkin's depiction of Davison's Doctor in his Missing Adventure novel Cold Fusion. In that book, the Time Lord's fifth incarnation came across as rather ineffectual compared with the seventh. Here, however, the writer gets the Fifth Doctor just right: he is self-depreciating at times, but also capable of some quite sardonic comments. "It's a figure of speech," he explains, having said the wrong thing before the superstitious natives, "I really must stop using them."

The Fifth Doctor also enjoys a good rapport with the local physician, Shayla (played by special guest star Susan Penhaligon, who once auditioned for the role of companion Jo Grant). The teaming of the Doctor and Shayla recalls the relationships he enjoyed on TV with Todd in Kinda and Jane Hampden in The Awakening.

Although she spends most of her early scenes bedridden, Sarah Sutton's Nyssa also gets to strut her stuff - quite literally on one occasion, as she teaches Shayla's assistant Sabian (Ian Hallard) to dance the Charleston. In fact, Nyssa does quite a bit of flirting with him. She also stands up for herself by toting a weapon, and she is not afraid to use it. This is an aspect of her character that many writers have overlooked, but Nyssa used similar means in The Keeper of Traken and Arc of Infinity, both penned by her creator, Johnny Byrne.

The chief bad guy, a godlike entity called Kwundaar, is portrayed with relish by Stephen Greif (the original Travis in Blake's 7). The effects added to the actor's voice effectively convey the impression that this being is only partially substantial yet also hideously twisted in appearance. Unfortunately, it is occasionally difficult to make out what Greif is actually saying.

The middle two episodes of this four-part tale are a little slow moving, but overall this is a literate and stylish adventure.

Richard McGinlay