'The Whispering Forest' is one of the most inventive stories I've come across by Stephen Cole.
This is the second story in this new series of adventures with the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough. Following from 'Cobwebs'
, the four regulars have re-established themselves as the new team. Stephen Cole especially wanted to write them as they're his favourites.
The story is about the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough visiting Purity Bay on the planet, Cherdor. Purity Bay is in the heart of a forest where voices whisper in the trees. It's a settlement where a small group of people live and have beliefs of 'holding tight' and being clean.
The group of humans have recently been scared out of their wits by a group of robot drones called Takers that 'take' the weak and decrepit Soon the Doctor and friends get caught up in the affairs of Purity Bay and have to solve the mystery of these Takers.
Stephen Cole has written for the Fifth Doctor before in 'The Land Of The Dead'
. `The Whispering Forest' is extraordinary in terms of an alien world and intriguing concepts throughout. Steve Cole has come up with a unique setting with people obsessed with cleanliness.
When I attended a convention in Newcastle, 2013; I asked Sarah Sutton; Janet Fielding with Matthew Waterhouse on a panel, "which Big Finish audio they would like to see turned into a TV story?'' Sarah said 'The Emerald Tiger'
and Janet said 'The Whispering Forest'.
Janet said she enjoyed 'The Whispering Forest' and said that would be a story directed by Peter Grimwade on TV. I can imagine Grimwade directing this story, making it very action-paced and hopefully would have filmed it at Ealing studios instead of a BBC studio.
Sarah Sutton is wonderful as Nyssa, who has recently re-joined the TARDIS team. I was getting into these new adventures with the older Nyssa. I'm enjoying how she's slipping back to having adventures and facing new situations with the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough.
Nyssa spends more time with Turlough, as they share scenes and get chased by Mertil and her acolytes. Nyssa rescues Turlough from drowning and both discover the Takers' hideout. I love it when Nyssa steps in and protests to Mertil who's hell-bent on killing Tegan.
Janet Fielding is very good as Tegan. She's not argumentative as she was in 'Cobwebs'. She shares more scenes with the Doctor and supports Seska to lead the people of Purity Bay and is horrified by Mertil's hygiene-obsessed beliefs and saves the Doctor from her.
Mark Strickson as Turlough is with Nyssa for most of this story. Turlough gets a brilliant name by Mertil and is called 'Red Thatch'. The scenes between Nyssa and Turlough are interesting as both share their intellect, although Turlough's more pessimistic than Nyssa is.
Peter Davison is very good as the Doctor. I like it when he and Tegan try to convince Seska to trust her and when they deal with Mertil's extremist ways. The Doctor learns more about Purity Bay and where its people come and how they crash-landed onto the planet.
The story has a superb guest cast. There's Hayley Atwell (from 'Captain America - The First Avenger') as Sister Seska, daughter of Anulf; Sue Wallace as Sister Mertil; Paul Shelly (from 'Four To Doomsday') as Jestan and Lennox Graves as Anulf, the original Purity Bay leader.
The Takers are a group of robot drones from the medical transport ship that crashed on the planet. The Takers' voices are eerie and unusual. I'm not sure I get what they're saying as they're too distorted and make little sense, especially when the Shades take over.
'The Whispering Forest' is a nice story with the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough. I found the story interesting and intriguing. I enjoyed the characters like Seska and Mertil. I don't admit to fully understanding the story entirely, but it's definitely worth the entertainment.
The CD extras are as follows. At the end of Disc 1, there's a suite of incidental music. At the end of Disc 2, there are behind-the-scenes interviews with cast and crew including Peter Davison and Janet Fielding. Sarah Sutton and Mark Stirckson aren't interviewed sadly.
These stories were during the winter months where there was heavy snowfall, which could explain why Sarah and Mark aren't interviewed. I remember Sarah talking at a convention about digging her driveway free of snow to get to the recordings. Poor Sarah!
The story ends on a cliff-hanger. Tegan feel strange is and acting strangely. She changes. She's not the Tegan we know before. This happened before. Somehow it's returned! Tegan's voice has changed and she lets out an evil laugh! "I live Doctor! The Mara lives!"
There's a trailer for the next story with the Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and Nyssa called 'The Cradle of the Snake'