Leviathan

The entire world and everything in it – the castle, the forest, the village – they’re all inside the hold of gigantic spaceship!

The Sixth Doctor

Synopsis

No one lives to old age in the village. When their time is come, they are taken and never seen again. That is The Way. And should anyone try to break with the established order of things, then the fury of Herne the Hunter is unleashed…

When the TARDIS materalises near a castle in this mediaeval society, the Doctor and Peri befriends Gurth, a terrified youth is attempting to flee his fate. And Herne is closing in…

Why does the local baron impose the culling? What is the secret of Zeron? And who are the Sentinels of the New Dawn?

The answers lie within a cave…

Review

Leviathan is definitely the strongest story in the Sixth Doctor’s Lost Stories range that I’ve heard so far. It brings an intriguing central concept and throws a couple of twists in along the way in a story that would have been a solid story for either the original run of the show or the revived form. It’s a highly visual story, however, and probably benefits from the audience using their imaginations to visualise the settings and some of the characters, as with a 1980s BBC budget, the special effects probably would have been underwhelming.

The story is well-paced and times its reveals to perfection. The first part focuses on the mystery surrounding the culling of the young people, a society with androids and a fearsome foe and the faux Middle Ages setting, culminating in the reveal that the whole society is a simulation held in the hold of a spaceship. The second part reveals some darker truths about the nature of what has happened during the simulation, including what happens to the young people after they have had ‘their time’. The whole central concept is really creepy, with androids posing as authority figures and elders in the village and the scene where Peri finds that the hut that she and Gurth are hiding in is surrounded by the other inhabitants of the village is really creepy. The story has benefitted from adaptation to audio by the original writer’s son, who inserted things like the horse riding sequence, more dialogue for Herne and more action scenes, as the story was not limited by a BBC budget. The story’s pacing means that none of the reveals feel rushed and gives each idea enough time to breathe. Even things like the Sentinels of the New Dawn, a relatively minor thread, gets picked up and wrapped up satisfactorily. I particularly like the idea of the Leviathan spaceship being designed as a cutting edge colony ship but by the time it was ready to launch, technology had surpassed it. The Middle Ages simulation is designed to provide colonists who will not survive the journey with more pleasant surroundings is also a nice idea, with the Sentinels of the New Dawn installing the Zeron, a former prison running system, allocated to this instead.

Something that I really like about Doctor Who is when the stories are able to teach me something – the original remit of the show was to be educational. In this case, I went down a rabbit hole of researching Herne the Hunter who is a mythic character from the Dark Ages. The performance by John Banks is unsettling and creepy, making Herne feel like a real threat, thanks to some great audio design. This story also features a small number of actors playing multiple roles, which works really well here – none of their voices are similar which really helps the world feel more expansive and real and the guest cast excel here.

This is another strong outing for Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor, being equally funny, charming and resourceful when the story requires it. From the associated documentary, Baker seems to have particularly enjoyed this story and he is particularly good in the scenes where he is slowly piecing together the inconsistencies about the Dark Ages fa├žade throughout part one, such as the existence of white bread, the castle walls not being thick enough and the castle’s moat being so shallow that it can be waded across. He remains capable of being scathing as well, such as when Eda doesn’t realise that there is an android guard in the cells and is superb when he tells the pirates attempting to profit from the Leviathan, telling them that he is strongly considering unleashing Herne on them. This is quite a good story for Peri too, as despite her getting captured early on in the narrative, she rallies later on when she is trying to get the Pariahs, members of the society who have escaped ‘their time’, to rise up. There are even hints of the Doctor and Peri’s old combative relationship, as when they are reunited, they fall into bickering about where the other has been.

Verdict: Leviathan is one of the stronger Lost Stories which feels really well paced and is well acted by all the cast. It’s a shame that this story was never made, as I think, even with the budget at the time, this would have been a classic story for the Sixth Doctor. 9/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Howard Gossington (Gurth/Thurstan/Soltan), John Banks (Herne/Baron/Osbert/Chandris), Beth Chalmers (Althya/Maude/Eada/Zeron), Jamie Parker (Wulfric/Edgar) & Derek Carlyle (Siward/Master-Serjant/Gregorian)

Writer: Brian Finch (adapted by Paul Finch)

Director: Ken Bentley

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • The script was originally intended to be a part of Season 22, but was dropped by the production team for unknown reasons.
  • The script was sent in to Big Finish by Brian Finch’s son Paul, who had read about the Lost Stories series in Doctor Who Magazine. With recording on the first series of Lost Stories almost complete, producer David Richardson managed to extend the originally planned series.

Cast Notes

  • Howard Gossington also appeared in House of Blue Fire and Power Play.
  • John Banks has appeared in several Lost Stories, including Thin Ice, The Elite and The First Sontarans, as well as other Big Finish stories, including Lucie Miller, Doom Coalition and The Well-Mannered War.
  • Beth Chalmers has played numerous roles for Big Finish, including Seventh Doctor companion Raine Creevey.
  • Jamie Parker also appeared in The Architects of History, Shadow of the Daleks and Plight of the Pimpernel.
  • Derek Carlyle also appeared in Brotherhood of the Daleks, Heroes of Sontar and The Doomsday Quatrain.

Best Quote

Ideas in themselves are not evil, it’s those who corrupt them. In the hands of the wicked and the depraved even the finest dreams can be turned into nightmares.

The Sixth Doctor

Leviathan is available to purchase on the Big Finish website, or to stream on Spotify

Previous Sixth Doctor review: Mission to Magnus

The Children of Seth

Why do the shortest journeys seem to take the longest?

The Fifth Doctor

Synopsis

During one of Nyssa’s experiments, the TARDIS’ temporal scanner picks up a message: “Idra”. Just one word, but enough to draw the Doctor to the Archipelago of Sirius.

There, the Autarch is about to announce a new crusade. A mighty war against Seth, Prince of the Dark…

But who is Seth? What is the secret of Queen Anahita, Mistress of the Poisons? And what terror awaits on Level 14?

Review

The Children of Seth feels very different to most other Doctor Who adventures, and it is no surprise that the original idea comes from Christopher Bailey, who also wrote Kinda and Snakedance. Adapted by Marc Platt, it is a story of political machinations and manipulation of the public which Big Finish seem to love doing, but this is definitely one of the strongest examples of that kind of story. It benefits from having quite a small cast and, amongst that cast, having Honor Blackman and David Warner really raises everybody else’s performances.

As mentioned above, the story is one of political intrigue, but perhaps what makes it so effective is that it takes the time in the first part to establish the world without the Doctor and his companions being present, and does it in a way that feels pacey rather than dragging, leaving the audience longing for the TARDIS to materalise. Equally, it’s not as though the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan are twiddling their thumbs in the scenes in the console room, with the defence intelligence drone having its circuits fried by the TARDIS’s superior circuits, which is more interesting than the usual TARDIS scenes of this era. The story is particularly dialogue heavy and there is not a word wasted, to the extent that I think that this story that will get better each time that it is listened to, as it can be quite difficult to pick everything up on the first go round. It’s not a particularly action led adventure, but the intrigue surrounding the identity of Seth and the machinations of Byzan really drives it forwards. The central idea of a common ‘bogeyman’ in the shape of Seth is a really intriguing one, especially when it is revealed that Seth is a creation of Anahita’s in her book The Trick of Darkness, a book which Byzan has destroyed all known copies of, and has been so complacent as to not even change the name. Whilst Byzan has managed to get into a position of power by reducing the roles of both Siris and Anahita, the real villain of the piece is Albis and the army of androids forbidden to take human form, and I love the fact that they don’t know how many people are androids in the general population.

The best performances come from Honor Blackman and David Warner, who bring Anahita and Autarch Siris to life so effectively. Blackman has the lion’s share of dialogue, and she is great in her interactions with the majority of the characters, especially the Doctor and Tegan. As someone whose power has been gradually eroded away by the rise of Byzan, it would be easy to see her as a good person, but she is depicted as being more ambiguous – she is described as the Queen of Poisoners, and lives up to her title when she poisons Byzan at the end of the story, and her husband, Siris, tells her to bring her poisons to where they go next. Siris has slightly less to do, but is sympathetically portrayed by David Warner, a leader suffering from dementia who has passed power on to Byzan. Warner and Blackman have believable chemistry together as a bickering couple but they do seem to genuinely care about each other.

The Fifth Doctor really is front and centre in this story, and Peter Davison puts in a good performance. He is particularly effective when he is blinded by his encounter with the defence net and is surrounded by brainwashed people in Level 14, generally referred to as Hell throughout the story. It’s funny to think of this Doctor in particular being used as a common enemy to rail against, as the Fifth Doctor is probably the most affable and likeable incarnation. The rapport between Davison’s Doctor and Queen Anahita make it believable that they have previously met and their relationship seems to be one of mutual respect. Nyssa again feels underutilised, disappearing from the narrative at times when she is banished to Level 14 and her memory wiped. However, Sarah Sutton is particularly creepy and effective when she is portraying Nyssa’s mind slipping away, with a childlike voice and giggling. On the other hand, this is really good story for Tegan, who has a lot of different things to do here as opposed to her usual characterisation, especially in the televised episodes. I really enjoyed her trying to take an interest in Nyssa’s experiment at the beginning of the story, despite the fact that she doesn’t really understand it and missing Nyssa’s joke about probability. She also gets to show a flirtatious side when she is trying to rescue the Doctor from his prison cell and probably has the most to do with Anahita, who she seems to respect despite her personal convictions about the monarchy. Janet Fielding is good here, which makes you realise how wasted she was for the majority of her run as a companion and Tegan ultimately plays an important role in the story’s climax.

An optimist, Tegan? Nyssa would have been having kittens by now.

The Fifth Doctor

Verdict: A good story with a realistic world, The Children of Seth brings this stretch of Lost Stories to a close with a bang. 8/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Honor Blackman (Queen Anahita), Adrian Lukis (Byzan), David Warner (Autarch Siris), Vernon Dobtcheff (Shamur), Matt Addis (Albis), Emerald O’Hanrahan (Mira) & John Banks (Radulf Varidi).

Writer: Christopher Bailey & Marc Platt

Director: Ken Bentley

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • When the story was originally submitted to the production office in the 1980s, working titles included Manpower and May Time.

Cast Notes

  • Honor Blackman previously appeared in Terror of the Vervoids and was also offered the role of Vivien Fay in The Stones of Blood but declined for fear of being upstaged by Beatrix Lehmann.
  • Adrian Lukis has appeared in Counter Measures as Professor Jeffrey Broderick and in the Main Range (Cobwebs), The Justice of Jalxar opposite Tom Baker and Jago and Litefoot story Return of the Repressed.
  • David Warner has appeared in a lot of Doctor Who stories, including Cold War opposite Matt Smith. Warner is probably most notable for playing an alternate version of the Third Doctor in the Unbound universe for Big Finish.
  • Vernon Dobtcheff previously appeared in The War Games and has appeared in numerous Big Finish audio stories, including The Cradle of the Snake and The Genesis Chamber.
  • Matt Addis has appeared in two other Lost Stories, The Macros and Point of Entry opposite Colin Baker, as well as The Wreck of the Titan and Robophobia.
  • Emerald O’Hanrahan previously appeared in Voyage to the New World and The Ghosts of Gralstead.
  • John Banks has appeared in many Big Finish audio dramas across numerous ranges, including Missy, The Diary of River Song and The War Doctor.

Best Quote

Numbers. Like an endless cascading grid, shifting, bombarding me with information. Here or there, they cluster or thin out and I think I can see shapes but I can’t read or make sense of them yet! But I’m still her in the other world, our world, I can still smell and touch it. I’m still here.

Fifth Doctor

Previous Fifth Doctor review: Hexagora

The Children of Seth is available from the Big Finish website.

Neverland

Doctor, of all the countless billions of people in the whole of space and time; why did it have to be you?

Romana

Synopsis

The Web of Time is stretched to breaking. History is leaking like a sieve. In the Citadel of Gallifrey, the Time Lords fear the end of everything that is, everything that was…everything that will be.

The Doctor holds the Time Lords’ only hope – but exactly what lengths will the Celestial Intervention Agency go to in their efforts to retrieve something important from within his TARDIS? What has caused the Imperatrix Romanadvoratrelundar to declare war on all creation? And can an old nursery rhyme about a monster called Zagreus really be coming true?

The answers can only be found outside the bounds of the universe itself, in a place that history forgot. In the wastegrounds of eternity. In the Neverland.

Review

When I reviewed Ghost Light last week, I wrote about how that story had great ideas but felt as though it didn’t have enough time to realise them fully. Neverland is a story that has the best of both worlds – it has some fantastic ideas at its heart and has the running time to explore them to a satisfactory conclusion. This story brings to a head the issues that have been pursuing the Eighth Doctor and Charley in this series of Big Finish audio adventures following the Doctor changing history by saving her from the crash of the R-101 and its cliffhanger leads directly into Zagreus, the Big Finish audio play marking the show’s fortieth anniversary.

There are a lot of good story elements here – we have the threat of an Anti-Time universe taking over ‘our’ universe as Charley’s continued existence allows this universe to start bleeding through into the main universe. Obviously, this has alerted the Time Lords who are keen to rectify the damage to history, whilst also keen to eradicate the threat to their supremacy. Add to this central element the fact that the villains have been created by the Celestial Intervention Agency, the possible survival of Time Lord founder Rassilon and the culmination of the threat of Zagreus that has dogged the Eighth Doctor’s time on audio and it needs the extended run time. The writer Alan Barnes subsequently admitted that he thinks that this story is too long, but I struggle to see a scene that I would cut. There are some lovely and tragic ideas here, like the Neverpeople being those who have never had a chance of life, having been victims of the Oubliette of Eternity, erasing their timelines, and the fact that one of Vansell’s predecessors as head of the C.I.A., Sentris, sentenced himself to the same fate once he realised that it was still being used. This helps reinforce that things on Gallifrey aren’t always as rosy as the Doctor would like to portray, even before events such as the Time War that the revived series would bring into continuity at a later date. The Neverpeople’s plan to get their revenge on Gallifrey is quite good too. They spread rumours that Rassilon entered their universe to destroy the “Realm of Zagreus”, ensnaring Time Lords like Vansell, then trick them into taking a cabinet of Anti-Time back to Gallifrey in order to destroy history and create utter chaos. I also really liked the resolution of Charley’s paradox – because the Web of Time was saved by her existence, it cannot be imperiled by her survival – which is quite simple but really good.

The sound design in this story is fantastic throughout. The story begins with the Matrix reciting historical events, breaking down as a result of the paradox Charley surviving the crash of the R-101 set up the story really effectively. We also have some great distortion on the voices of the Neverpeople, especially on Sentris, distorting India Fisher’s voice to an eerie extent. This works well on Paul McGann and Anthony Keetch’s voices when they are infected with the Anti-Time during the course of the story, creating a great and creepy distinction between their usual and infected selves. There are some other more minor moments of great sound engineering, such as when Charley hits the fast return switch at the beginning of the story or when the Doctor, Romana and Vansell travel through to the Anti-Time reality.

I am not the Doctor! I have become he who sits inside your head, he who lives among the dead, he who sees you in your bed and eats you when you’re sleeping. I am…Zagreus!

The Eighth Doctor/Zagreus

Lalla Ward returns here as Romana and she has got great chemistry with Paul McGann, to the point where it is utterly believable that McGann and Tom Baker are the same person, just with a different face. It probably helps that the Eighth and Fourth Doctors are quite similar in many respects, but they are wonderful in the scenes that they share together. Ward also manages to sell the harsher Imperatrix Romana really well and it is believable when the Doctor sees her in the alternative time line as someone whose top priority is to ensure Time Lord superiority over all races. When we come back to the ‘main timeline’ version of Romana, the audience can appreciate why power hungry figures such as Vansell may be frustrated with her to the point of treachery. Vansell is also played well by Anthony Keetch, fulfilling the turncoat role here, and Don Warrington completes a strong guest cast as Rassilon, bringing gravitas to his brief scenes in the story. I wish we had more of Warrington, but I know he plays a big part in the next story so that’s something to look forward to.

This story is Charley-centric as it resolves the ongoing storyline about her survival of the crash of the R-101, and India Fisher is on top form here. Whether she is letting the Doctor know that she is okay with him killing her to prevent the Neverpeople achieving their plans, or berating the Doctor for not telling the truth about why the Time Lords are so interested in them. There is certainly a maturity about this relationship now and I really think the two have great chemistry together. There is something disarmingly charming and childlike about the Doctor wanting to drop Charley off at an eternal party whilst he goes and sorts everything out with the Time Lords, and McGann is good here too, with him flipping between this childlike innocence and paternal protective figure of Charley. The Doctor tells Charley he loves her, taking this romantic version of the character to new levels, a couple of years before the revived show would explore this on television. This is probably the strongest outing for this TARDIS pairing and a great end to their second season together.

It’s alright, Doctor, I’m not afraid. It’s like I said on the TARDIS, my time is up. There is no alternative. Oh Doctor, you rescued me from the R-101. You gave me these last few wonderful months. The things that I’ve seen, the places I’ve been. I’ve lived more than I could ever have dreamed of and all thanks to you. And you’re the sweetest, the kindest, most wonderful man I’ve ever met and I’m sorry it’s come to this and I’m sorry that it has to end like this but if the Web of Time is destroyed all the time I’ve had, everywhere I’ve been, all those fabulous, fantastic things we’ve done they won’t ever have happened at all. I know it’s an awful, terrible thing but I want you to do it.

Charley Pollard

Verdict: A really great story, Neverland does some wonderful things and interesting things, and has great performances from the main and guest cast. 10/10

Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley Pollard), Lalla Ward (Romana), Don Warrington (Rassilon), Anthony Keetch (Coordinator Vansell), Peter Trapani (Kurst), Holly King (Levith), Lee Moone (Undercardinal), Mark McDonnell (Rorvan), Nicola Boyce (Taris), Jonathan Rigby, Dot Smith and Ian Hallard (Matrix Voices) and Alistair Lock (Dalek Emperor).

Writer: Alan Barnes

Director: Gary Russell

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • The conclusion of this story leads directly into Zagreus, however, there was a gap of 1 year and 5 months between the release of this story (July 2002) and Zagreus (November 2003).
  • Despite being billed as a traditional four part story, Neverland was released as two parts of 72 minutes each.

Cast Notes

  • Anthony Keetch reprises his role as Vansell from The Sirens of Time and The Apocalypse Element. He has appeared in different roles in various other stories, including The Fires of Vulcan and The Black Hole.
  • Peter Trapani also appears in The Shadow of the Scourge.
  • Holly King previously appeared in The Shadow of the Scourge, and would go on to appear in Kingdom of Silver and Last of the Titans.
  • Lee Moone, Mark McDonnell and Nicola Boyce had previously appeared in the two Eighth Doctor audio adventures directly preceding this one, Embrace the Darkness and The Time of the Daleks.
  • Jonathan Rigby previously appeared in Phantasmagoria and Invaders From Mars.
  • Dot Smith appeared in The Time of the Daleks and also Dalek Empire.
  • Ian Hallard went on to appear in Robot of Sherwood and An Adventure in Space and Time.
  • Alistair Lock provided music and sound design as well as appearing in numerous other Big Finish plays including Invaders from Mars, Minuet in Hell and Dust Breeding.

Best Quote

Happy Birthday Charley! Only it isn’t my birthday, is it? It isn’t my birthday because I’m not supposed to have any more birthdays. No more cake, no more candles, no more presents, not now, not ever, no more birthdays since I died! That’s right, isn’t it Doctor? No more birthdays because I’m supposed to be dead. Dead and burned in the wreck of an airship. Born on the day the Titanic sank, died in the R-101. Poor tragic little Charlotte Pollard, her life snuffed out before it had even begun.

Charley Pollard

Previous Eighth Doctor story: The Time of the Daleks

Neverland is able to stream on Spotify, or to purchase from the Big Finish website.

Other Stories Mentioned:

Ghost Light

Mission to Magnus

The despised creature who owns every last woolly jumper on the planet.

Sil

Synopsis

The Doctor and Peri face enemies at every turn on the planet Magnus. There’s the Time Lord bully Anzor, who made the Doctor’s life hell during his time at the Academy. There’s also Rana Zandusia, the matriarchal ruler of the planet, who seeks to prise the secret of time travel from these alien visitors. Also on Magnus is the slug-like Sil, still bitter from his defeat on Varos and seeking to make his fortune from the most potentially destructive ends. And deep within the planet, there is something else. Another old enemy of the Doctor’s. And the future is looking decidedly colder…

Preamble

It would be remiss of me, I feel, not to mention the fact that the writer of this story, Philip Martin, sadly passed away on 13 December 2020. Martin wrote two televised stories for Doctor Who, Vengeance on Varos and Parts 5 – 8 of Trial of a Time Lord, also known as Mindwarp. He also wrote The Creed of the Kromon and Antidote to Oblivion for Big Finish Productions and created the character Sil, who also had a spin-off in the Reeltime Film Sil and the Devil Seeds of Arodor, released in 2019. Vengeance on Varos is a high point of Colin Baker’s time as the Doctor during his television run, and whilst I haven’t seen Mindwarp, I know that some hold it in high regard.

Outside of Doctor Who, Martin created the tv series Gangsters, as well as writing for Z-Cars, Tandoori Nights and Star Cops.

He sadly lost his battle with leukemia and will be much missed.

Review

Mission to Magnus is a story that has a pretty poor reputation amongst fans, which is a massive shame considering this writer’s other work, largely due to the misogyny and general sexism in this story. There are some interesting ideas at play here, but unfortunately it feels as though everything but the kitchen sink is thrown at this story which allows none of these ideas to really develop. The sound design and music feel authentically as though they could have from the 1980s, though, and there are some good performances.

There are so many ideas at play here: we have two rival planets, Magnus and Salvak, each ruled by women and men respectively, climate change, two faces from the Doctor’s past and the Ice Warriors. I feel like I say this a lot with Doctor Who, especially in the original run and I suppose it applies to these Lost Stories too, but whilst some of the central ideas are sound, it falls down when it comes to execution. The central idea of the two warring planets inhabited only by one gender is not bad, but it is characterised so poorly and generally paper thin – men are presented as war-like, whilst women are presented as rather gentler. It feels as though this is a bit of an afterthought, and ultimately the plot of this story sees one planet wanting to obtain time travel technology to prevent a rival planet penetrating their defences is a good enough driving force for a story without the added battle of the sexes element we have here. The ending also feels really awkward, with men from the planet of Salvak deciding that they will unite with the women, who have no concept of marriage.

We then have the character of Anzor, a fellow Time Lord and classmate of the Doctor’s from his days at the Prydonian Academy. Unlike some notable contemporaries of the Doctor, Anzor seems to be completely incompetent and a bit of a borish oaf, who obviously made the Doctor’s school days hell. I feel that Malcolm Rennie does a decent enough job here, and the idea of the Doctor facing off with a bully from his past feels as though it is ultimately abandoned towards the end of the first part, with a coda at the end of the story seeing him off. It is interesting to see a Time Lord like this, as whilst we have seen various different Time Lords, they tend to be knowledgeable and the Doctor’s equal, whilst Anzor is, at his heart a coward.

Then when we get to the Ice Warriors, who ultimately flip the axis of the planet to change the climate of the warm Magnus. In association with Sil, who is looking to make a killing selling warm clothing and equipment, they are looking to make it a more hospitable environment for themselves. Again, this is an interesting idea that could have profited from more time, especially as we don’t have very many stories with the Ice Warriors, and even fewer with them acting as the primary antagonist. The whole climate change subplot seems to fall by the side through the first part, so when they come back to revisit it in Part 2 and it becoming a central plot element means that it doesn’t really work as well as the story seems to think it does.

There are some good performances here, though. Nabil Shaban is superb as Sil and he feels just as slimy and unpleasant as he was in the show, thanks to some great vocal ticks and production. Sil flips between the Magnusians and the Ice Warriors with ease and has some great lines, especially when he is concerned about his survival once the Ice Warriors reveal themselves. Sil’s laugh is just as creepy on audio as it is in Vengeance on Varos. Colin Baker is good as the Sixth Doctor and it is great to see him encounter a figure from his past that brings up such feelings of fear that he has to hide behind the console and in turn, stand up to his school bully at the end of the story. Nicola Bryant doesn’t have a lot to do here as Peri, and probably suffers from being partnered with the child Vion, whose actor William Anderson gives a very one dimensional performance. His performance does not vary, which is really frustrating when he is in peril, such as when Vion and the Doctor are being chased by the Ice Warriors or Peri is being carried off – which feels all the more glaring when he’s acting opposite Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant.

Verdict: Some interesting ideas are let down by some sexist characterisation, poor acting by some actors and too many ideas. I have high hopes for the next Lost Story! 2/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Nabil Shaban (Sil), Malcolm Rennie (Anzor), Maggie Steed (Madame Rana Zandusia), Susan Franklyn (Jarmaya/Tace), Tina Jones (Ulema/Soma), William Townsend (Vion), Callum Witney Mills (Asam), Nicholas Briggs (Brorg/Vedikael/Grand Marshall/Ishka) & James George (Skaarg/Jarga/Hussa).

Writer: Philip Martin

Director: Lisa Bowerman

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • This story was adapted from a Target novelisation of a story intended for the original Season 23. If it had been produced, it would have been the first appearance of the Ice Warriors since The Monster of Peladon in 1974.

Cast Notes

  • Susan Franklyn also appeared in the Companion Chronicle The Library of Alexandria.
  • James George has appeared in a number of Big Finish plays, including The Condemned and The Guardians of Prophecy with Colin Baker.

Best Quote

Doctor? You have thwarted our plans before, have you not?

Once or twice. I’d rather like to do it again!

Grand Marshall and the Sixth Doctor

Previous Sixth Doctor Story: The Ultimate Evil

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

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