It was at the Singapore Hilton, on the cusp of the yars 1930 and 1931, that I first met Mr. Sebastian Grayle.
The Doctor brings Charley to the Hilton in Singapore, her original destination when she originally boarded the R101, to meet Alex Grayle. Whilst Charley enjoys her date, the Doctor encounters the immortal Sebastian Grayle, an old adversary of the Doctor whom the Doctor has not met yet.
Unfortunately for the Doctor, Sebastian Grayle succeeded in killing him years before this meeting and he has only come here to gloat. The Doctor realises that there is something drastically wrong with time and he and Charley have to fix it.
It is perhaps an understatement to say that following the superb Chimes of Midnight is an unenviable task for Seasons of Fear, however, I am pleased to say that this story largely succeeds. The two are very different stories, with this story a quest through various time eras and it is to the director’s credit that the various periods of history and locations this story contains feel so well developed and different. which certainly helps to make this story to work as well as it does. It also features a very strong performance from Stephen Perring as the central antagonist Sebastian Grayle, who feels like a juggernaut and the Doctor certainly seems like he is steps behind.
My new state and the slow processes of influence and investment have given a land of my own. A Bishopric. And soon they will give me more.
An Earldom, perhaps?
The World, Doctor. What less could one desire?
Sebastian Grayle (disguised as Leofric) and the Doctor
One of the strongest parts of this story is the performance of Stephen Perring as Sebastian Grayle. The performance bristles with menace and resentment towards the Doctor, in part down to the Time Lord’s interference in his attempt to become immortal at the end of Part One. Perring manages to maintain this throughout the story down to the character’s final moments in Part Four and certainly feels like a worthy adversary. He is frustrated that the Doctor at times isn’t willing to give him his full attention at times and there is a lovely moment where he gets angry as the Doctor switches his attention to Charley instead, resulting in Charley being able to render Grayle unconscious with the TARDIS hatstand. Grayle’s Masters who have interferred with time to the extent that they have rendered the Time Lords powerless are eventually revealed to be the Nimon, and they certainly work better on audio than they did in the Tom Baker era. The Nimons attempted to set themselves up as God species on Earth, however, were earlier foiled by Mithrais, who later has a religion set up in his name. The Nimons are able to exploit Grayle with promises of immortality in return for a sacrifice and setting up a ground station to establish a link between Earth and the Ordinand System, with the opportunity first arrising in 305AD Britain, and then later in 1055 and 1806 when the stars align correctly. The Nimon are brough to life effectively by Robert Curbishley, and I’d say that they are used sparingly and effectively here.
So, Grayle, or should I say Leofric? You’ve got yourself a grand old Saxon name now. Why are you at court? What are you planning?
Doctor…is that what they called you? Doctor Who?
My enemies never ask me that. Isn’t that terrible? But they know me better than my friends.
The Doctor and Sebastian Grayle
The story is a romp through time which is something that certainly hasn’t been done very much on televison – the only example I can think of in the revived series is Spyfall, Part Two, where the Thirteenth Doctor visits various eras. Husband and wife writing team Paul Cornell and Caroline Symcox do a good job here, with a script that is both quite scary and funny in places. The scenes in Roman Britain feel unsettling, however, there are elements of dark humour here – there are similarities to the Church of England’s standard services in parts, which no doubt come from Symcox’s experiences as a vicar. The story ultimates concludes with the innocent original Grayle being so horrified by what he becomes after being given immortality that he kills his older self, which works quite well here too. I do enjoy this story, however, if I had to pick a minor niggle, I would say that the use of narration is a bit jarring and took me out of the story in places, however, I can understand why it is necessary in a story which includes multiple different time periods and is quite fast paced at times. The story also reveals that the disruptions to time are a consequence of the Doctor saving Charley from the R-101, an important arc that would continue through the next few stories
Paul McGann and India Fisher are on fine form here and have a really easy chemistry which makes their relationship work really well. The Doctor and Charley have certainly settleed into an easy relationship and both of them are likeable – this is probably one of my favourite TARDIS pairings. Outside of this central dynamic, I really enjoyed Lennox Graves and Sue Wallace as Edward the Confessor and Edith of Wessex respectively. Both certainly bring a lot of regality to their performances and they are playing historical figures who personally interest me and are not really very commonly featured in drama. This is surprising considering how important Edward the Confessor is in the grand scheme of British history, even if he is known for the chaos he left in his wake by essentially allowing anyone and everyone to inherit the throne on his death in 1066, leading to the Norman invasion.
Verdict: Seasons of Fear is another strong story for the Eighth Doctor and Charley which features a strong antagonist and a good story jumping through different time periods, which each feel distinct thanks to good direction. 8/10
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Stephen Perring (Sebastien Grayle), Stephen Fewell (Lucillius/Richard Martin), Lennox Greaves (Edward the Confessor), Sue Wallace (Edith), Robert Curbishley (Marcus/Nimon voice), Justine Mitchell (Lucy Martin), Don Warrington (Rassilon) & Gareth Jenkins (Waiter/Prisoner).
Writer: Paul Cornell & Caroline Symcox
Director: Gary Russell
Behind the Scenes
- The first appearance of the Nimon since The Horns of Nimon.
This story boasts a lot of actors who have been involved in Big Finish productions, which I have done my best to list the most significant of below:
- Stephen Perring (The Eyes of the Scorpion, Zagreus and the Kro’ka during the Eighth Doctor’s time in the Divergent Universe);
- Stephen Fewell (Red Dawn, The One Doctor, Zagreus and The Twilight Kingdom, and also Jason Kane in the Bernice Summerfield stories);
- Lennox Graves (The Shadow of the Scourge, The Chimes of Midnight, The Condemned and The Whispering Forest);
- Sue Wallace (The Chimes of Midnight and The Whispering Forest);
- Robert Curbishley (The Fires of Vulcan, The Chimes of Midnight, The Time of the Daleks, The Church and the Crown and The Game;
- Gareth Jenkins worked for the company ERS who did sound design and post production for Big Finish. He also appears in Dust Breeding and Bang-Bang-a-Boom!
- Don Warrington makes his first appearance here as Rassilon. He went onto appear in Rise of the Cybermen.
I’d like to lock him in here for a while, but left alone he could do serious damage. besides, in the end he would get out of any confinement. That’s one of the wonderful things about Lady Time, isn’t it? How nothing’s constant, how everything decays and changes?
You call that wonderful?
I call that absolutely beautiful. How would it be if everything was always the same? If you never got too big for your dresses, if you never got to pass them on to you sister? If the rainy autumn lasted forever and spring never came? At least I change. I’m stumbling my way through bodies like I own a particularly dangerous bicycle. Grayle never changes, not inside. Not who he is.
The Doctor and Charley Pollard
Previous Eighth Doctor review: Living Legend
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