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…
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 façade 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
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.
- 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.
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