Hexagora

Do you know what they reminded me of? Termite mounds on Earth. On a far greater scale, of course.

The Fifth Doctor

Synopsis

When a newspaper reporter goes missing, the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa uncover a case of alien abduction. The trail leads to the planet Luparis, and a city that appears to be a replica of Tudor-era London.

What are the monsters that lurk in the shadows? And what is the terrible secret at the heart of Luparis? To save a world, the Doctor must try and defeat the evil plans of Queen Zafira.

And one of her plans is to marry him…

Review

Part of the problems with Big Finish and their Lost Stories is that, in returning to the television eras of the respective Doctors, they undo the good work they have done with characterisation of Doctors and companions which did not really happen in the classic run. Here, the TARDIS crew get involved due to the disappearance of the boyfriend of Tegan, who is very much in her under-developed state.

As this story is based on a brief outline by Peter Ling and Hazel Adair, it must have been challenging to adapt into a full story for Paul Finch. There are some interesting ideas in her, like the faux-Tudor appearance of the town on Luparis and how the majority of the cast are dressed, which is an interesting idea and also gives the listener a visual reference of what the planet and people look like. However, to a certain extent, it feels as though Finch has overcomplicated this story which leads to Parts 3 and 4 feeling like they are exposition dumps and this becomes rapidly wearing, especially as a lot of these scenes are between Astorius and the Fifth Doctor. The central plot, that the Hexagorans are possessing humans in order to ensure their survival of an impeding Ice Age, is a good one, but when it is extended out to a potential invasion of Gallifrey and the involvement of the Time Lords feels like throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. Having the Doctor getting engaged by accident put me in mind of The Aztecs, where William Hartnell unwittingly does the same, but it feels as though the ending is a bit of a damp squib. The cliffhangers here aren’t very good either and none of them feel suitably impactful and fall flat once united with their resolutions. By the show’s very nature, cliffhangers are always going to have a handy ‘get out of jail free’ card, but here they don’t really feel very much like cliffhangers at all.

The story feels so brimming with ideas, but it seems to abandon its best one in favour of the Tegan-centric one. Nyssa here is given a potential great side-story, which ties into her origins as a noble from the planet Traken. Her noble standing is detected almost immediately after the TARDIS lands on Luparis and she is ear-marked by Lord Jezzavar as a potential Queen to overthrow Zafira, which is something that feels very in keeping for Tudor-era England. In keeping with the original run, of course, this plot line ends with a bit of a whimper when it gets to the Doctor’s wedding to Zafira and despite this sub-plot making it all the way to the fourth part, it does feel as though it is forgotten for a long period of the runtime. Instead, the focus is on Tegan, and her relationship with journalist Mike Bretherton, which is really unremarkable. This is partially due to the fact that Tegan is very much in her unlikeable and complaining mode from the television era and perhaps to Toby Hadoke’s weird Australian accent. Ultimately, I didn’t care about their relationship, which seems to be what the whole story seems to gear me towards and I think that Nyssa’s plot warranted more attention.

Despite this, there are highlights, namely the performances of both Peter Davison and Jacqueline Pearce. Davison manages to recapture the same energy in his voice from his original run, which makes it believable that this is happening in between televised adventures. Davison is a really good actor, but even he cannot save scenes of exposition that we see in the latter two parts, but he and Jacqueline Pearce really sparkle together. Pearce is probably the saving grace of this story, as she makes Queen Zafira feel both menacing and kindly. When the story relies on characters such as Jezzavar and Zellinger as the villains, who feel rather one-dimensional, Pearce takes that central role and plays it to perfection.

Verdict: I feel I say this a lot, but this story has an interesting central premise, but feels like it tries to do too much more. Peter Davison and Jacqueline Pearce do put in good performances. 3/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Jacqueline Pearce (Queen Zafira/Bev), Toby Hadoke (Mike Bretherton), Richard Mark (Lord Jezzavar), Dan Starkey (Lord Zellinger/Bill) & Sean Brosnan (Astorius).

Writer: Peter Ling & Hazel Adair, adapted by Paul Finch

Director: Ken Bentley

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • This story would have originally been intended to appear in Season 21, with the Fifth Doctor and Peri.
  • The story was originally to have been entitled Hex, however, this was changed due to the Big Finish companion, Hex.
  • After The Foe From The Future and The Valley of Death, this is the third story in the Lost Stories range to partially take place in 1977.

Cast Notes

  • Jacqueline Pearce appeared as Chessene in The Two Doctors. She also appeared opposite the War Doctor and the Eighth Doctor as Cardinal Ollistra.
  • Toby Hadoke is possibly best known amongst Doctor Who fans as the moderator on a number of Classic Series commentaries. He has also appeared in An Adventure in Space and Time, as well as numerous appearances in Big Finish audios.
  • Dan Starkey has played Sontarans in the revived series, most notably Strax. He has also appeared in a number of Big Finish audio plays and has also co-written Terror of the Sontarans with John Dorney and written Interlude.
  • Sean Brosnan marks his second appearance – he previously appeared in The Angel of Scutari and would go on to appear in Masquerade.

Best Quote

I’m surprised, Doctor. For a man of wisdom, I’d thought you’d recognise the benefits of being married to a queen.”

For a man of wisdom, I’d have thought you’d recognise the drawbacks.

Astorius and the Fifth Doctor

Previous Story: The Elite

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