The TARDIS materialises on Serenity, the last surviving world of the Traken Union. Peri expects a good place for a holiday – not tomb raiders, a labyrinth filled with terrifying monsters and a trap-laden necropolis.
For Serenity’s gentle name belies its history as the home planet of the Melkur, soldiers created to serve a long dead dark force, the embodiment of evil itself. Whilst they sleep, vicious thieves are after this force’s secrets, and will stop at nothing to find them.
But will they find more than they bargained for?
The Guardians of Prophecy acts as a sequel to the Fourth Doctor serial The Keeper of Traken and brings the Doctor back to this area of the universe and up against the Melkur, which he only encountered as a form of the Master’s TARDIS in that story.
On the face of it, The Guardians of Prophecy has quite a standard set-up for a Doctor Who story, with a society on the brink of revolution, whilst a malevolent force lurks in the shadows, and a force of good in the shape of Prophecy and a force of pure evil, Malador, and with the same energy feeding both. It is definitely a story of two parts. It gets off to a slow start, but really picks up in Part 3 and doesn’t stop rising until the show reaches its climax. I really like what the story does with the Part 3 cliffhanger, giving us a switch to Malador’s point of view in Part 4 for the resolution, which is a nice play on what we usually see happen in these stories. As this was based purely on synopses, it is probably fair to give more credit to Jonathan Morris than Johnny Byrne for ideas like this. I wasn’t sure about how the field of goodness, and subsequently the field of evil, would work as it seemingly allows Mura and Auga to plot against the Guardians and Prophecy without awakening the Melkur – perhaps it has to be something a bit more serious than plotting against the fabric of the society of Serenity.
The production manages to capture the tone of the Colin Baker era of the show, obviously with the twist that Big Finish have given the Sixth Doctor’s character, softening the more abrasive edges presented in Season 22. The music and sound design by Steven Foxon capture the feeling of a Doctor Who story broadcast in the 1980s. Ken Bentley is such a solid staple of Big Finish audio plays and does a great job of conveying the atmosphere of Serenity and bringing a sense of scale.
There are two members of the guest cast who really stand out here. The first is Graham Cole, playing the safecracker Autolycus Ebbko, who really steals the show. The character is definitely morally grey but Cole brings a charm to the character, who seems to have been around the block a few times and nothing seems to really phase him too much. He has a great chemistry with Colin Baker, helped by the fact that this is someone that the Doctor has always wanted to meet – and it’s nice to see the Doctor enthusiastic to meet someone who is not necessarily wholly good. Ebbkor does sacrifice himself to save the day. The second stand out in the cast is Stephen Thorne, who plays Malador. Thorne could be described as a Doctor Who veteran, having played characters like Omega in The Three Doctors amongst other roles, and Big Finish seem to have realised that he is perfect for the part here. He brings a real sense of menace and malice to the part. It cannot be easy to play a character described as the ultimate evil, but Thorne manages to do so perfectly here. Malador isn’t just your standard run-of-the-mill Doctor Who villain, he is a force of evil so serious that the Time Lords know about him and use as deterrence for their young, which adds a sense of gravitas and threat to the central villain, especially one that has had its conscience surgically removed is a horribly effective idea.
You don’t give up, do you? Playing hide and seek with a homicidial floating sphere is not my idea of fun!The Sixth Doctor
Colin Baker is a real joy in this story, and gets to revel in a lot of dialogue scenes, including a trial scene – taking place before the Trial of a Time Lord, of course. Something that really impressed me early on in the story is how Colin Baker manages to capture a melancholy when he recalls the destruction of Traken that almost makes you believe that he really is the same man who has travelled with Nyssa and experienced the events of Logopolis. Colin Baker gets to hold court here when he gets sentenced to be thrown in the labyrinth and does so superbly. Peri does not have a lot to do here, but Nicola Bryant does do everything that is asked of her competently. The partnership between the Doctor and Peri seems a lot stronger now that the sniping at each other has been stopped. They seem to be much more of a team and Bryant makes the listener really feel it when she asks the Doctor if she will see him again when he is off to sacrifice himself to save Serenity, and when she realises that it will be her to open the labrinyth, thus dooming her friend.
Verdict: In lesser hands, The Guardians of Prophecy could come across as a generic story, but due to stand out performances from Colin Baker, Graham Cole and Stephen Thorne and a story that manages to take a slow start and build up to a epic climax. 8/10
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Graham Cole (Autolycus Ebbko/The Melkur), James George (Mura), Nigel Lambert (Auga), Simon Williams (Guardian), Stephen Thorne (Malador), Victoria Pritchard (Felia/Prophecy), Glynn Sweet (Horgan) & Duncan Wisbey (Escalus).
Writer: Johnny Byrne (adapted by Jonathan Morris)
Director: Ken Bentley
Behind the Scenes
- This version of the story is based on a 17 page treatment written by Johnny Byrne, and given to writer Sarah Groenewegen when the two had been pen pals i the 1980s or 90s.
- The story is a sequel to The Keeper of Traken, featuring the Melkur and set on a planet that was once part of the Traken Union.
- Graham Cole appeared in a number of Doctor Who television stories but was not credited. Most notably for this story, he played the Melkur in The Keeper of Traken, but also played a Cyberman in Earthshock, a Marshman in Full Circle and a Jacondan in The Twin Dilemma.
- James George has appeared in a number of Big Finish audio plays, including Mission to Magnus, The Condemned and Zygon Hunt.
- Nigel Lambert played Hardin in The Leisure Hive and the Priest Triangles in War of the Sontarans and Once, Upon Time, as well as appearing in the Big Finish audio plays The Four Doctors, Thin Ice and The Cannibalists.
- Simon Williams appeared in the Seventh Doctor story Remembrance of the Doctor as Group Captain Gilmour, a role he reprised in the Big Finish audio series Counter Measures.
- Stephen Thorne had previously played Azal in The Daemons, Omega in The Three Doctors, First Ogron in Frontier in Space and Eldrad in The Hand of Fear. Thorne would reprise the role of Eldrad in the Big Finish audio play Eldrad Must Die!
- Glynn Sweet has also appeared in Wirrn Isle, The Broad of Erys, The Widow’s Assassin and The Behemoth.
- Duncan Wisbey has appeared in a number of Big Finish audio productions, including The Legacy of Time, The Crimes of Thomas Brewster and The Nightmare Fair.
Your brothers will feast upon the banquet of death I will provide!Malador
Previous Sixth Doctor story: The Macros