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

Revolution of the Daleks

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Revolution of the Daleks. If you have not seen it yet, come back after watching it.

Being with the Doctor, you don’t get to choose when it stops, whether you leave her or…she leaves you.

Captain Jack Harkness

Synopsis

The Doctor is imprisoned halfway across the universe. On Earth, the sighting of a Dalek alerts Graham, Ryan and Yaz. Can the return of Captain Jack Harkness help them stop a deadly Dalek takeover?

Review

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been 10 months since we last saw the Doctor and her three companions. At times, I struggled to remember having a series of Doctor Who in 2020. It feels good to have her and the “fam” back, even if it is only for a special.

Why were you in prison in the first place?

Evading the Judoon. Twice at once. Then once I was in, they took 7,000 other offences into consideration.

They stopped at seven?

Captain Jack Harkness and the Thirteenth Doctor

The story pays homage to some other Dalek stories but ultimately feels as though it puts some flesh on the bones of some of the ideas that came up in Resolution, their last appearance on New Year’s Day 2019. It starts off fairly slowly, getting players into the places they need to be, but builds up to a frenetic confrontation and a nice call back at the end. Whilst inspiration seems to have come from earlier stories, most specifically Victory of the Daleks, there were differences which made this story more enjoyable for me. I liked the fact that it was human interference and curiosity that led to the rise of the Daleks here, rather than it being a wider Dalek plot. As soon as it was mentioned that the new ‘defence drones’ were going to be unveiled by the new Prime Minister, Jo Patterson, before beta testing was completed, alarm bells started ringing that something was going to go wrong. One thing that was slightly mishandled was the escape, as it felt all too easy for Jack and the Doctor to escape, making it feel as though the Doctor hasn’t been really working to escape. I was sceptical about the return of Chris Noth as Jack Robertson here, but I think he works well here as someone who cannot be trusted, although, again he comes away with his reputation seemingly repaired, with talks of a potential knighthood and second stab at the US Presidency, whilst his fellow human conspirators fall by the wayside.

Resolution showed that the Dalek mutant was almost as much of a threat as the travel machine, and this is an idea that this story picks up and runs with here. The scenes in the Robertson owned facility in Osaka, where the Dalek mutants are being grown, are some of the creepiest in the episode, and when Leo is being controlled by the Dalek mutant he is suitably creepy. Like he did in Resolution, Nick Briggs is possibly at his scariest when he is voicing the mutant possessing Leo. I quite liked the new design of the Daleks and the simple transition between blue and red to signify their transition from the AI to being Daleks. The story returns to that old thorny issue of Dalek purity, and whilst I was perhaps disappointed at how quickly the potential civil war was dealt with, it did perhaps reinforce what poor imitations Robertson’s Daleks were. The shot of the ‘pure’ Daleks encircling the TARDIS in the sky above the Earth is beautiful too, and whilst the eventual defeat is a bit underwhelming, the visuals of the TARDIS being destroyed by the forces of the void are equally stunning.

Thanks? Is that it?

Are you feeling insecure? Cos you seem to need a lot of praise.

Captain Jack Harkness and Yasmin Khan

It’s great to see John Barrowman back again, coming face to face with the Doctor for the first time in over a decade. As mentioned in my review of Fugitive of the Judoon, Barrowman brings a lot of charisma and screen presence and the role seems to come back to him really easily – not surprising, considering that he has been playing the role for Big Finish for the last couple of years. Jack here serves a similar role to Sarah Jane in School Reunion, gently reminding the audience that companions don’t stick around forever. It’s worth remembering that these three companions still don’t know the Doctor terribly well – they only learnt where the Doctor came from and that she can regenerate relatively recently – and so Jack does have an important role to play, especially for Yaz. Jack understands how it feels to be abandoned by the Doctor, for considerably more than ten months. Whilst his departure from this story feels overlooked, I think it is open for him to come back at some point – and it is nice to have a name drop for Gwen, Rose and appearances for various foes in the prison.

The relationship between the Doctor and her companions has changed, largely due to the fact that the Doctor was unable to get her TARDIS back to them in a timely fashion. It has enabled Ryan to think about what he wants to do with his future, and the discussion between the Doctor and Ryan is one of the high points of the episode, in part because again, he is the only one that she completely opens up to about events on Gallifrey. Whilst I haven’t been the biggest fan of Ryan during the show, his and Graham’s departure did make me quite emotional. Their arc felt as though it reached it’s logical conclusion at the end of their first season, and despite their departures being left quite open, I don’t think we’ll be seeing them again. Yaz seems to have taken the ten month gap hardest of the three, and keen to jump into danger when given the option once she was back. It’s no surprise that she wants to stick around, and personally, I’m interested to see what happens with her and the Doctor as we go into Series 13.

As for the Doctor herself, the events of Series 12 and her time in prison. Whittaker gives some hints of what might be to come and I liked the eventual defeat of the Daleks, which ties up the loose thread of the other TARDIS left on Earth. Her scheme to get rid of the Robertson Daleks by getting the bronze Daleks involved and her ultimate scheme to get rid of the death squad Daleks feels like a scheme out of Troughton or McCoy’s playbook. Her reaction to the departure of Graham and Ryan is fantastic, especially when she thinks about crossing her own timeline to visit her companions sooner. We know that there’s a new companion coming in the Doctor’s future, as well as a shortened series coming later this year, so there are certainly interesting times ahead.

Verdict: The return of the Daleks is a bit of a barnstormer, wrapping up some loose ends. It has a good departure for two of the Doctor’s companions, but has some issues with pacing towards the beginning and the Doctor’s escape from prison. 8/10

Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Chris Noth (Jack Robertson), Harriet Walter (Jo Patterson), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Leo Rugazzi), Nathan Armarkwei-Laryea (Armen), Helen Anderson (Rachel), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek Operator 1), Nicholas Pegg (Dalek Operator 2), Emily Maitlis (Herself), Sharon D Clarke (Grace O’Brien) & Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Daleks).

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Director: Lee Haven Jones

Behind the Scenes

  • The story was mostly filmed with the rest of Series 12 in 2019, however, Chris Chibnall confirmed that one additional scene was filmed in 2020.

Best Moment

The moment that the Doctor and Jack land back in the TARDIS after escaping the prison.

Best Quote

No weapons. No time to think. All that time in that cell, wondering who I am. I’m the Doctor. I’m the one who stops the Daleks.

The Thirteenth Doctor

Previous Thirteenth Doctor story: The Timeless Children

Other Stories mentioned:

School Reunion

Victory of the Daleks

Resolution

Arachnids in the UK

Brightly Shone The Moon that Night

If this is heaven, then someone’s made a real screw-up with the paperwork.

Shreela

Synopsis

The TARDIS crew encounters a shameful secret of the Time Lords. History has been rewritten, and this time, it’s all the Doctor’s fault.

Review

After some plot threads were pulled together in the previous story, we are finally at the culmination of this anthology. With the Doctor unwittingly releasing the Were Lords, we finally get answers to the mystery behind why the TARDIS has been landing in the 59th Century in these adventures, as well as filling in some of the backstory surrounding Peri’s partner, Joe, including how they met, and brings back characters from the first two parts of the story.

I wrote about the consequences of the Doctor’s actions in the previous review and here it is revealed how his actions in the previous stories have led to this point. His interference on Naxios led to weapons not being produced using the planet’s living silver to fight the Were Lords, and the destruction of the Ishtar Institute meant that the rejected embryos, who were sold to the military, were not developed into soldiers designed to fight them. Combined with the events onboard the Tate Galactic in the previous story, the Doctor is manipulated into the role, but I think it makes the character of the Doctor stronger. It is important that the Doctor does not become an infallible hero, always making the right decisions for the greater good, as it makes him (or her) more relatable. It is particularly effective when the incarnation in question is Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor, who is at times more confident and arrogant that some of the other incarnations that came both before and after him and this story and anthology in general does seem to take some wind out of his sails.

I quite like the concept of the Were Lords and the fact that they are the origins of the myths and legends of werewolves on Earth. They are Gallifreyan soldiers used to fight in the Vampire Wars and who fled. With the ability to regenerate, they certainly feel like a worthy foe and as in this last story, Steven Elder does a great job with Lycaon. The Were Lords plan to use the belief system to ensure that they subjugate the Earth by creating a climate of fear, which is a clever call back to the belief system in the first part, and I quite liked the way that the Doctor eventually defeats the Were Lords, using the ability to regenerate between forms against them.

I’ve spoken about how Peri is at the fore of these stories and, with this story focusing in on the Doctor making mistakes, it is important to note that Peri has also made an error by allowing Joe onto the TARDIS. Here, we find out that he is also a Were Lord, who has posed as Peri’s partner in order to allow his race to break free of their captivity. This reveal helps to answer some unsolved questions, such as why Joe wasn’t more involved in these stories. I must admit I felt a bit slow when it was revealed that he was a Were Lord, having missed the fact that he was unable to go down into the caves on Naxios due to the silver, although my suspicions were aroused when he was unable to go through a mistletoe-garlanded arch in the previous part. There are some particularly powerful scenes between Peri and Joe here and both Nicola Bryant and Luke Allen-Gale do a good job here. Allen-Gale shifts his performance slightly following the reveal and is less fawning and more unpleasant, which worked really well, and the scene between the two in the airlock is particularly memorable, and Bryant is also superb when she meets the incubator robots representing her children, aged to 25 years old, which is a lovely way of rounding off the unanswered question of what her children would be like as grown-ups left dangling in The Baby Awakes.

Verdict: Brightly Shone The Moon That Night provides a satisfying conclusion to this collection of stories. Nicola Bryant particularly shines here. 8/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Luke Allen-Gale (Joe Carnaby), Steven Elder (Lord Lycaon), Louise Kempton (Selene), Dawn Murphy (Ratty/Cordeline), Becky Wright (Mole/Shreela/Janey), Roger Parrott (Toad) & Cliff Chapman (Robot Attendant/Paul).

Writer: Nev Fountain

Director: John Ainsworth

Behind the Scenes

  • All four stories in Blood on Santa’s Claw and Other Stories were written by Nev Fountain. The pseudonyms were employed to throw people off the scent of an audio anthology.

Best Quote

Doctor, are you okay?

Of course I’m not okay! Arent’ you paying attention? If what they say is true, this is too horrible to contemplate.

It’s not your fault. They manipulated you.

Well, they didn’t need to. They just wound me up like a clockwork solider and marched me into battle!

Peri Brown and the Sixth Doctor

Other Stories in this anthology:

Blood on Santa’s Claw

The Baby Awakes

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day

What would be the point in going to a party on a space station when there’s a whole universe to explore?

The Sixth Doctor

Synopsis

A Christmas party that has been going on for three years. Strange silver robots who guard the Christmas decorations with lethal force. What is the secret behind the festivities on Tate Galactic?

Review

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day has a difficult job in this release, which I guess I can reveal now is an anthology rather than four separate stories. This serves the role of the first part of the two-part finales that we have become familiar with in the course of the new series, and starts to tie together some of the threads we have encountered in the previous two stories here. This story has to toe the line carefully to not reveal too much at once, instead dropping hints and it largely does this well, but it probably helps that the story isn’t trying to handle as weighty issues as the previous two.

Listening to this story in the midst of a global pandemic and various lockdowns, the premise of the story, a Christmas party that seems to have been going on for three years, has some added poignancy. Although I am writing this in December, days like this have felt a lot like Groundhog Day, spent with the same group of people. When you throw Christmas into the mix, it almost feels worse – as someone who loves Christmas, a part of what makes it enjoyable is that it is only a short period of time. To spend every day in the midst of a Christmas party would be pretty horrific, so it is fitting that the concept is ultimately revealed to be a prison for the Were Lords devised by the Earth government. Ultimately, the party was only supposed to be an initial ruse for them, but something has gone wrong with the mainframe.

This is a story in which the Doctor proves to be his own worst enemy and manipulated by his enemies into doing the wrong thing, despite having the purest of intentions. Especially in the original show’s run, the Doctor doesn’t really ever stick around to see the consequences of his actions and interference, and here he believes that those imprisoned on the Tate Galactic are political prisoners. Nine times out of ten in a Doctor Who story, the Doctor would be doing the right thing in helping Lord Lycaon and the other prisoners out of this psychological prison. Here, it is absolutely the wrong thing to do, and it’s interesting to see the Doctor put into this position. It is only when the Earth President confronts him about his actions that the Doctor even begins to question his actions and how badly he has misread the situation. There are clues as to the villains’ true identities through the deterrents used in the base, including mistletoe and the silver robots, but Lycaon comes across as a genuinely wronged party for a lot of this story’s run time, and Stephen Elder is a worthy adversary to Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor here.

This is also an important moment for Peri and Joe. The Doctor’s doubts about Joe’s suitability as a companion have been clear from the first story in this release, but here Joe expresses doubts about whether Peri is happy travelling with the Doctor. Joe has discovered that he has followers in the 59th Century, like a lot of pop culture icons do under the new belief system, and believes that he could have a lot of fun exploring the universe on his own terms. The emotional scars have not entirely healed for Peri from The Baby Awakes, and it feels as though this is heading for a collision course in the concluding part. Luke Allen-Gale and Nicola Bryant are good in the scenes that they share together and do come across as a real couple throughout these stories.

Verdict: A story that feels as though it is getting its ducks in a line ready for the concluding part, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day is functional, but probably the weakest of the four stories in this release. 7/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Luke Allen-Gale (Joe Carnaby), Steven Elder (Lord Lycaon), Louise Kempton (Selene), Cliff Chapman (Robot Attendant) & Heather Bleasdale (President).

Writer: Andrew Lias

Director: John Ainsworth

Behind the Scenes

  • The writer’s name is a play on words on “alias”, for reasons which will become clear!

Best Quote

Act natural, drink, smile, pretend I’m saying something fascinating – which should be easy.

The Sixth Doctor

Previous Story: The Baby Awakes

The Baby Awakes

Why worry about arguing with your offspring in future years when you can choose a more agreeable child?

Cordeline

Synopsis

The Doctor, Peri and Joe visit the Ishtar Institute, where the term ‘designer babies’ takes on a new and sinister meaning. Will our heroes survive Christmas day?

Review

After dealing with religious persecution and slavery in Blood on Santa’s Claw, the next story deals with another heavy topic: eugenics. This is a very Peri-centric story and she provides the emotional heart here and it is difficult not to be moved by her performance. The story takes a rather traditional approach, with the first part focussing on the weird circumstances the characters find themselves in and the second revealing the circumstances behind it.

The story centres around the TARDIS trio investigating the mysterious Ishtar Institute, which allows prospective parents to simulate their children through the usage of incubator robots. In the opening scene of the story, we see one of the simulations of Christmas day derailed by unruly teenager, discounting him from adoption. Joe and Peri pose as potential parents, with the Sixth Doctor as the amiable Uncle, but Peri becomes emotionally attached to her simulated children, insisting on having more simulations as Cordeline, one of the Institute’s staff, tries to get them to discard one of the children. As a concept, designer babies are nothing new, as Joe points out that the idea is hardly novel on 1980s Earth, but it is given a sci-fi tilt here. The idea of trying out children being something as normal as a streaming subscription service is a bit creepy and feels like something that would be at home in an episode of Black Mirror. When it is revealed that Balan, the head of the facility is in fact one of these robots and has been callously giving rejected embryos to the military for them to develop into soldiers, the gut punch is much worse when it is revealed that Shreela is one of those embryos, rejected purely for a poor performance in a school play.

As stated above, this story does really focus in on Peri, and like a lot of stories in the Sixth Doctor’s era, she does really get put through the emotional wringer here. Scenes like the beach one perfectly demonstrate why she is having such a difficult time choosing between her children, regardless of whether or not they are only simulations. When she and Joe decide to simulate their children to their teenage years, they mutate and attack the facility, something which Joe later states is due to Peri’s travels with the Doctor, further making her feel guilty for the destruction they have caused. To make matters worse, the Doctor and Joe seem rather blasé about these simulated children’s eventual fate at the end of the story, leading to a great emotional outburst from her at the story’s end.

The story’s focus is away from the Doctor, and he is doing traditionally Doctor-y investigations. He, like Joe, is rather taken aback by Peri’s outburst towards the end of the story, which feels very much in keeping with the character of the Doctor, especially during the original run, where characters were expected to shake off tragic events easily from one adventure to the next. We still don’t have much of a feel for Joe, but he certainly doesn’t seem to be as attached to the children as Peri and this story has certainly put their relatively young relationship under some strain.

Verdict: Another story with some dark undertones, The Baby Awakes is an excellent example of Nicola Bryant’s strengths as Peri and certainly packs a fair share of emotional moments. 9/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Luke Allen-Gale (Joe Carnaby), Roger Parrott (Balan), Dawn Murphy (Cordeline/Dorrit), Becky Wright (Shreela/Jana/Pip/Janey) & Cliff Chapman (Kren/Paul).

Writer: Susan Dennom

Director: John Ainsworth

Behind the Scenes

  • The name ‘Susan Dennom’ is a play on the word pseudonym. The reasoning behind this will become clear!
  • The name of Peri and Joe’s children, Michael, Paul and Janey, are the ones given by future Peri in Peri and the Piscon Paradox – before she is revealed to be lying about having children.

Best Quote

TARDIS. That’s your safe word, isn’t it Doctor? Say the word ‘TARDIS’ and everything goes away. Well sometimes, it’s not ‘all’s well that ends well. And sometimes Br’er Rabbit doesn’t crawl out of the briar patch and laugh at Br’er Wolf.

Peri Brown

Previous Story: Blood on Santa’s Claw