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5.0 out of 5 stars Romance in an English countryside with the Doctor and Nyssa!, 17 Aug 2011
This review is from: Doctor Who - Circular Time (Big Finish) (Audio CD)
At long last! I get to review my most favourite `Doctor Who' audio starring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa - `Circular Time'!

I bought this audio with my birthday money in 2008, after immediately being enthralled with 'Black Orchid'. This was to be the first Big Finish audio I bought and listened to, and my life has never been the same since! This audio's my favourite since it features my favourite `Doctor Who' companion, Nyssa of Traken, played by lovely Sarah Sutton. It was 'Circular Time' and 'Black Orchid' that really got me to become a huge Nyssa and Sarah fan! I first met Sarah in February 2010 and I asked her to sign my CD cover for 'Circular Time' along with 'Black Orchid'. She ranks this as one of her favourites as much as I do, since she says it develops the character of Nyssa. She's absolutely right, and this must be the template for character development with the Doctor and Nyssa.

'Circular Time' of course is four episodes on two CDs. But it's not a traditional four-parter you'd get with many `Doctor Who's. Oh no! These are four individual one-parters that are loosely connected by four seasons in the annual year - 'Spring'; 'Summer'; 'Autumn' and 'Winter'. Written by new series writer Paul Cornell (`Father's Day', `Human Nature'/'The Family of Blood', `Goth Opera') and Mike Maddox, this is certainly a successful format of storytelling that has preceded similar CD releases with the likes of `100', `Forty-Five', `The Company of Friends', `The Demons of Red Lodge and Other Stories' and `Recorded Time and Other Stories'.

'SPRING'

'Spring' is the first of the four episodes on this CD. It's set on an alien planet where bird-like creatures live. Some say this is the weakest of the four stories. But in actual fact, I rather like this tale. It's a gentle way to start off into the set of four stories for me.

The Doctor and Nyssa arrive in this avian society to deal with a certain Time Lord called Cardinal Zero who's in control of the planet. They have to sort of 'talk him down' out of his business with ruling these people as a sort of god. Zero however knows of a deep secret about the planet and its people. Can the Doctor and Nyssa find out what this secret is before Zero decides to undergo a strange transformation?

I found this story really interesting with its alien setting. It took a while to grasp the concepts of the bird people and their laws of `punishing the innocent for the crimes of the guilty'. It's a pretty brutal society, where family members are inflicted with pain or killed as a result of one person's actions. It certainly shocks Nyssa as she finds the avians' laws "random and brutal" and is appalled by the violence. She disregards the Doctor's notion that Avia (that's the name I give to this planet) could be like Traken, despite the planet's forest-like beauty.

There are lots of references to Gallifrey and its Time Lord politics in this one. Time Lord politics can range from regeneration, class, gender, species, etc, which I found pretty intriguing. There are also a number of continuity references to other stories before this tale which I liked such `The War Games' and `The Deadly Assassin'. I liked Nyssa's reference to `Logopolis' at the beginning of the episode.

I love how the Doctor and Nyssa's relationship is played out between Peter and Sarah. This was the first time I heard them on audio together, and it was really refreshing. Peter and Sarah know their characters inside and out. They seem to be bouncing off each other very well and there's a spark between them. The Doctor and Nyssa have travelled together in the TARDIS for some time now. Nyssa's able to speak her mind in this episode and is stronger than before compared to the TV series. The Doctor seems impatient with Nyssa at times which I found rather funny, but it's a lovely dynamic between the two of them.

The episode guest stars the suave Hugh Frazer playing Cardinal Zero. Hugh is well-known for his appearaing in `Agatha Christie's Poriot' with David Suchet. He's very good as this Time Lord who's chosen a life of exile on this alien planet with bird people. He's charming and very smooth-talking, especially with Doctor and is able to show sympathy for Nyssa over the loss of her home planet. He's very determined to remain on this planet for some reason. But whatever it is, the Doctor and Nyssa are none the wiser. When they do find out, they wish they could have more than they bargained for.

I liked some of the bird-like performances of the inhabitants in this episode with their fluting tones and voice treatments. There's Toby Longworth playing Redklaw; Jamie Sandford as Hoodeye; Teresa Gallagher as Snowfire, Hoodeye's brother and Lois Baxter as Lady Carrion, the leader of the avian people. We don't really get to know much about these bird-like creatures in one single episode, but it makes you wonder afterwards when the episode's finished.

The ending for this story took me quite by surprise. It was rather unexpected and a little rushed in a short space of time. But having listened to it again, I think the story manages to hold up somehow. It raises the question of what could happen to this avian society now after the Doctor and Nyssa have left and what Zero plans to do now with his new-found powers. As I said, a nice little episode to begin the four-episode release, even if it does seem a little weak in places.

'SUMMER'

'Summer' is the second episode of this CD set. I really like this little episode with the Doctor and Nyssa, as it's a pure historical tale where they get arrested and imprisoned by the one and only, Sir Issac Newton, wonderfully played by David Warner.

The Doctor and Nyssa are questioned by Sir Issac about a set of coins he picked up from them when arrested. They try to avoid answering questions but it's difficult Sir Issac suspects they're not telling them what he wants to know and he gets irritated about it.

It's a lovely exposition of dialogue between three characters, as the Doctor and Nyssa are trying to divert the conversation off long enough to prevent Sir Issac knowing anything about the future and damaging the time-line. The stuff they come up with is pretty funny and is rather fascinating as it mixes in religion and science in a unique way.

There are references to the Holy Bible that I've never heard before in a `Doctor Who' story, let alone an audio episode. `The truth shall set you free!', John Chapter 8, verse 32, is a notable example. It's one the Doctor is keen will help him and Nyssa escape. But the truth is harder to tell for the Doctor and Nyssa as they reluctant to give anything away to Sir Issac about what happens to him in the future. In the end, they reluctantly tell him about how he will be remembered in future generations to come. This results him having 'a funny turn' by the end of the episode.

The comedy moments are by far what I like about this episode. The guest characters like the prison guard (Jeremy James), the jailor (Trevor Littledale) and the jailor's wife Molly (Sunny Ormonde) are really lovely and provide comic moments to lighten the mood. Most of the comedy's black and a little bemusing since some of the lines said by the characters are pretty bizarre and unexpected. The moment when Sir Issac tells the Doctor and Nyssa, `I will have the jailor bring you food. I will tell him not to spit in it unless I expressly command it,' is funny, weird and disgusting at the same time. Even the moment when the jailor's told by Sir Issac to have anybody's toenails torn out and fed to the ravens is pretty horrible, before the jailor goes "Ravens don't like toenails. Toes maybe" and I can't help but laugh.

David Warner is superb as Sir Issac Newton in this episode. I didn't know much about Sir Issac as a historic figure before this episode, although I did see him in some episodes of `Star Trek' beforehand. I discovered Sir Issac was the one who first saw apples and first thought of gravity, although that was the Doctor's fault apparently, since he is a fast bowler. I love it when David as Sir Issac is talking to the Doctor and Nyssa and he deducts the future from the set of coins ranging from a two pound coin, a fifty pence and a futuristic coin from the 22nd century. David as Sir Issac makes calculations thoroughly in his head and even when he's not talking to the Doctor and Nyssa and ignoring them he still works things out. I really like David's interpretation as Sir Issac. I'm not sure if it's a historically accurate interpretation of the character, but it's very enjoyable and interesting.

Nyssa and the Doctor being trapped in a prison cell was great and very amusing to listen to. I like how they share scenes in a prison cell and Nyssa's helping the Doctor with his twisted manacles. I like the banter between the Doctor and Nyssa as they try to think of ways to get out such as unexpected help from outside or a new sonic screwdriver the Doctor has yet to build before Sir Issac comes along to interrogate them. I like some of the comedy lines the Doctor and Nyssa say to each other, especially Nyssa when they're provided food by the jailor and she goes `Ah food' before making a disapproving sniff of her nose saying, `At least I think it's food.' It's a lovely relationship between the Doctor and Nyssa who are a really good Doctor-companion team and one that I would love listening to in future audio adventures.

'AUTUMN'

`Autumn' is the third episode of this CD release. This is my most favourite episode out of the four episodes. It's a story that's personally close to my heart and is one that cherishes my love for the Doctor and Nyssa.

This is a reflective story that contains no monsters or sci-fi elements. It is a gentle tale about the Doctor playing cricket in a sleepy village called Stockbridge and Nyssa falling in love for the first time with a handsome stranger named Andrew. As I'm a sloppy guy, I find this a rare treat. The love story element really stands out for me. There's some lovely and beautifully-written dialogue between Nyssa and Andrew. It's a sweet love story that's told without being over-the-top.

It feels like a real relationship, and Sarah's lovely and beautiful in her voice that shines throughout. She presents Nyssa's sweet presence beautifully. My heart was filled with warmth during those scenes where Nyssa and Andrew fall in love with each other. It's a side of Nyssa's character we don't get to see very much as she goes through the emotions of falling in love and is contemplating whether to spend the rest of her life having a relationship with a man on Earth or to continue travelling in the TARDIS. It's heartbreaking towards the end, but it's done lovingly and beautifully.

I like the actor who plays Andrew - Jamie Sandford. Andrew's a young man working as a waiter in the guest house the Doctor and Nyssa are staying. He takes an interest in Nyssa, and she's uncomfortable at first before she gets to like him. They both have dinner together, and I love it when they walk together on a moonlit night and Nyssa shares with Andrew that she's from an alien world. Andrew doesn't believe Nyssa at first, but gets to kiss her and she seems to like it. She encourages him to continue. I wish it was me sharing a romantic love scene with Nyssa. It's my favourite scene.

The Doctor gets to play cricket in this episode, which is rare since he's always going about the universe fighting monsters, saving planets and helping people. The Doctor gets to take a break, though he finds some of the cricketers' stuck-up opinions intolerable. He manages to have moments with Nyssa, advising her about her relationship with Andrew as he shows concern for her. He wants to know if she's happy to spend the rest of her life on Earth? It's Peter and Sarah at their best here as they really embrace their characters and share things that rarely happened on TV.

Another guest star in this episode is Jon Benfield playing Don, one of the village cricketers. Don seems to be a national cricketing hero in this episode, although he seems to find he hasn't done much in his life and professional cricketer. He's pretty snooty about life in general which the Doctor tolerates. But he's an interesting character, and provides a different level in terms of the cricketing aspect of the story.

Stockbridge is a beautiful village and I can easily visualise in my head what it's like and helps to support the romantic atmosphere between Nyssa and Andrew and the cricketing atmosphere between the Doctor and his fellow cricketers. Stockbridge appeared before in the comic strips of Doctor Who with the Fifth Doctor during the early 1980s, and would later appear again in Big Finish's `Stockbridge Trilogy' with the Doctor and Nyssa.

'Autumn' is a easy story to listen to and its supported well with such beautiful music heard in the background. I really love this `Doctor Who' episode as it's such a beautiful romance story for Nyssa and features a lovely performance by Sarah Sutton. I want more romantic love stories with Nyssa, since Sarah's beautiful when falling in love in audio as Nyssa.

The next story with the Fifth Doctor after this is 'The Tides of Time'.

'WINTER'

`Winter' is the last of the four episodes of this CD release. It's probably one of the strangest tales of all and its set long after the Doctor and Nyssa finish travelling together and is fine piece of character drama.

This story is set after Nyssa has finished travelling with the Doctor and left in 'Terminus'. Nyssa's now married to man called Lasarti and has a daughter named Neeka. But she's been having a strange dream lately. With the help of her husband who is a dreams specialist, it isn't before long that Nyssa meets up with the Doctor in his mind.

I really don't want to say more about this episode and what goes on in it in case of spoilers. What I can say is that this is a story that really brings everything of what I love about the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa. This is a story about Nyssa helping the Doctor to escape death and reassure him that the universe needs him and he mustn't die.

Nyssa in this story is older by this point, but she still sounds lovely and beautiful as ever. She still has that same fondness for the Doctor that she had all those times they've travelled together. She gets to understand what goes on in the Doctor's mind and goes through it step by step with her husband Lasarti as they try to save themselves and the Doctor from a harrowing blizzard. I really wanted to know what Nyssa's life was like after she left the Doctor and how she met up and married Lasarti. I would like there to be a spin-off series with Nyssa where she has adventures on Terminus.

The Doctor seems to have a wife and children in this episode and lives at an old farm house in the midst of winter. He doesn't seem to know Nyssa at first, although he does claim she reminds him of `the daughter he lost'. The Doctor pretty dazed and confused and doesn't seem to know what he's saying half the time. But as the Doctor works things out for himself, he remembers who Nyssa is and he shares the same fondness he had for her when they travelled together in the TARDIS. Both of them have an adventure together to find a certain figure in the forest, a figure that's very close to him.

I liked Lasarti in this episode, played by Jeremy James. Following on from listening to `Autumn', I wondered if Nyssa would ever fall in love again. Lasarti seems like a good people who helps people to consciously experience one's dreams. He helps Nyssa in trying to save the Doctor, and we get hints of what their life must be like and how they raise their daughter Neeka. Lasarti is almost like a worthy companion when he and Nyssa brave through the blizzard in the Doctor's mind.

There are lots of references to past companions of the Fifth Doctor such as Adric and Tegan; and also to Turlough, Kamelion and Peri. There's also a reference to the Master in this episode, but that happens to be a TV show that the Doctor's children watch twice a week on the telly. Or is it? There's also a reference to the Doctor's first ever story `Castrovalva', though you have to guess what that is.

I found Nyssa's closing speech at the end of the episode very moving as she describes how the story ended for her and how she will always remember and cherish the Doctor. She will tell people the Doctor is still alive somewhere. "I'll know he's still travelling! I'll know he's still having adventures! I'll know he always will be!"

This episode sums up Nyssa and the Doctor perfectly, as it reminds me of how good they both are with lovely performances by Sarah Sutton and Peter Davison. It's a story to please the fans of both the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa, and has since then made me want to purchase more of the Big Finish with the two having adventures together in the TARDIS.

The next story for the Doctor is 'The Twin Dilemma'.

This is a Big Finish audio I highly recommend and cherish! There's lots of lovely character moments developed between the Doctor and Nyssa. If you're in the mood for some relaxation and wonderful drama, then this should be the one for you if you've had a surfeit of Daleks, Cybermen and the lot.

There are some trailers for some other Big Finish audios on this CD release. There's a trailer for a Seventh Doctor audio called 'Nocturne' at the beginning of Disc 1, if you're interested. But best of all, there are a number of trailers at the end of Disc 2 for more Doctor and Nyssa audios with the likes of 'The Land of the Dead', 'Winter for the Adept', 'The Mutant Phase', 'Primeval', 'Spare Parts', 'Creatures of Beauty' and 'The Game', which I highly recommend and are worth listening to!
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Oct 2013 00:32:55 BDT
Timelord007 says:
Like i said not fan single parters but this is exellent review of the 4 story seasons.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 May 2014 07:03:41 BDT
Tim Bradley says:
I've updated and extended my reviews for 'Circular Time'! Enjoy! Tim.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 May 2014 07:58:01 BDT
Timelord007 says:
Great update,Tim, I always struggle listening to the 1 episode format but this collection of 1 part stories I did enjoy.

This has good performances from Peter & Sarah & the ever excellent David Warner.

This is an excellent review that details superbly these four storys, If I didn't already own this I'd have brought it on this on reading your excellent review.
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