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5.0 out of 5 stars Traken revisited - Saving Nyssa's life!, 20 May 2013
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This review is from: Primeval (Doctor Who) (Audio CD)
Nyssa is ill, and it's up to the Doctor to save her!

This is a really good strong story for the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa (played by Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton).

This story takes us back to a place where we'd thought in 'Doctor Who' terms has been destroyed. But the Doctor's trying to save Nyssa's life, and he can think of one place where to save her. Traken - in the past, during the 'primeval' times. Big Finish covered the identity of Traken in the sleeve notes and CD cover very well, as it was a well-kept secret at the time.

When I heard this, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had recently listened to other Doctor and Nyssa Big Finish audios with the likes of 'Circular Time' (my favourite), 'The Mutant Phase' and 'Renaissance of the Daleks'. At the time, I was buying and listening to audios with the Doctor and Nyssa as I went along and `Primeval' was one of them.

A lot of concerns and questions have been answered in this story about why Nyssa fell at the end of 'Four to Doomsday' and why she had to sleep during 'Kinda'. The story stands on its own, but it perfectly links up following after 'The Mutant Phase' (which is third of the Doctor and Nyssa adventures).

We first met Nyssa on her homeworld of Traken in 'The Keeper of Traken'. It's one of my favourite Doctor Who stories with Nyssa, as it's got a good strong story and the sets for Traken are lovely and brilliant. So it was easy to visualise the tranquil settings of this story, with the consul chambers, the grove, the gardens, Shayla's medical practice and most importantly...the Source chamber. I have to say I couldn't have enjoyed a more visual story than this.

This story definitely has the feel of 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'Harry Potter' in it, which was as writer Lance Parkin intended it to be.

I asked Sarah Sutton to sign the CD cover for this story at a Who convention in Swansea back in 2011. Sarah/Nyssa is my favourite Doctor Who companion. At the time of signing this, she hadn't heard this one recently since recording it back in 2001. But took my word for it that it's a cracking good story and a strong one for Nyssa.

I liked the story going back into Traken's past. For me, Nyssa is revisiting her home that she thought she would never see again, especially in its past since Traken was destroyed. It's like with the new series companions such as Rose, Martha and Donna, who've had to face the consequences of going back to their homes. It's the same with Nyssa in this one as she returns to Traken (albeit in its past) and has to face the consequences of what it means to return home to a place that's been destroyed. When she faces interrogation from the counsul members in 'Part 2', Nyssa is really uncomfortable and feels awkward about it.

I love Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) in this. Nyssa gets to do so much in this story, despite being ill in the first two episodes. She gets to enjoy a hot bath to cure her illness, she teaches Sabian (the man who looks after her on Traken) to do the Charleston and she gets to shoot Anona with a gun on stun setting.

I liked the scenes that Nyssa had with Sabian (and I imagine Sarah enjoyed them to) as they seem to be fond of each of other during the story. I liked it when Nyssa showed concern for Sabian when he was working all day looking after her, and in the spa luring him in and staying with him to keep her company. There might have been a potential romance between the two, but it's obviously a close friendship which is alright as far as I'm concerned.

I enjoyed Nyssa's defiance against the counsuls of Traken, when she's being interrogated by them. She calls one of them `a superstitious savage' when they fear her illness maybe infectious and when she tries to defend the Doctor against them. I liked it when Nyssa challenged Counsul Hyrca's reasoning by saying that his `logic is ridiculous'.

Nyssa gets to wear a bathing costume in this story and she happens to be a good swimmer. Not meaning to be sexist, but I can imagine Sarah/Nyssa in a glamorous bikini when swimming or in the spa. It's Nyssa's 'Planet of Fire' moments in this story, and she would look sexy and lovely on telly. I love Nyssa's side-lines when she's feeling embarrased in her swimming outfit. The comedy banter between Nyssa and the Doctor when she complains about being cold is very funny. The line when she confronts Anona is very funny - 'It's not as if I'm concealing a weapon in this. I'm barely concealing myself'. Also when the Foster questions her about her dress sense and she replies 'I've just been for a swim, Foster. Is that a crime?'. It's so funny. I'm glad though the Doctor gave his coat to Nyssa to keep her warm.

Peter Davison excels in this story too as the Doctor. His youthfulness, compassion and energy is good as ever. Determined to save Nyssa's life, he goes to great lengths to find a cure with Shayla as they visit Kwundaar (who I would call Traken's definition of the devil). His resourcefulness in solving problems is depicted here when he tries to work out what Kwundaar wants and when he tries to gain access to a ship for him and Shayla to escape without the sonic screwdriver. I love the Doctor's scenes with Nyssa when he tries to explain to her that they're on Traken in the past or when they talk about the `primeval' times and about the source in the Source chamber. The Doctor's scenes in the counsel chamber are effective as he tries to bear their silly interrogation when answering their questions about who he is and his meetings with Kwundaar.

Shayla is a really nice character in this story (played by Susan Penhaligon, who played a part in `The Time Monster'). She's the physican who helps to save Nyssa's life for the Doctor at her medical practice. She joins the Doctor to meet Kwundaar in outer space when trying to save Nyssa's life. Shayla is the `older woman' who joins the Doctor with the likes of Todd from `Kinda', Jane from `The Awakening' and Kari from `Terminus', and Susan plays the part very well. Shayla's fate at the end of the story is very surprising and exciting, though I won't say any more about that to avoid spoiers.

The villain of this story is Stephen Grief (of 'Blake's 7' fame) playing Kwundaar. He's a really good Doctor Who villain as director Gary Russell imagined him to be. His performance is chilling and frightening. Like the Doctor, I wondered who Kwundaar was and initially thought he was the Master. The third scene of 'Part 1' really gave me that impression when Nyssa's dreaming; hears a voice and calls out `Father?'. There's an element of religious connotation in this story which mixes in with the science of Traken which I found very interesting when concerning Kwundaar and Traken's past. The revelation and origins of who Kwundaar was at the end of the story really interested me and how it links up to `The Keeper of Traken' was exciting.

The crew aboard Kwundaar's ship are Anona and Narthax. This story is exceptional with really strong-developed characters. Anona is a teenage girl who hates the Traken union and blames the Traken people for everything that's happened in her life, e.g. the death of her parents who died of the plague. She's the opposite of Nyssa and is passionate about her faith in Kwundaar. Narthax is the captain of Kwundaar's ship, and the reasons for why he serves Kwundaar to protect her family are very interesting. He's obviously a man who's tortured by the fact he's serving Kwundaar but he doesn't show that to his crew. There's a twist at the end to look out for between these characters.

Sabian, who's Shayla's assistant (played by Ian Hallard) is very good. He's like Shayla's companion compared to Nyssa who's the Doctor's companion, except he'd rather stay on Traken since he can't imagine what it's like to live `out there'. His determination to look after Nyssa really shows, and their relationship is very sweet. The moment when he asks Nyssa if she wants company proves he has an interest in her, which I think is nice.

Hyrca and Janneus, who are the counsuls of Traken are very interesting. They're like the consuls seen from 'The Keeper of Traken', except they're superstitious and cowardly. Their knowledge of Kwundaar and their submission to him at the end was quite funny, yet at the same time obviously predictable and pathetic. I thought Hyrca falling to his knees before Kwundaar in fear of him was pathetic and depicted how Traken lived in isolation and did not know the evils outside the union.

The sound design and music of this story is very enchanting, creepy and beautiful all at once. It brings to life the world of Traken and the Traken union very well, as I could imagine it very easily.

To sum up, 'Primeval' is an excellent story for the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa, and is only the fourth story that Peter and Sarah recorded. They're getting to enjoy their character relationships and development, and the decision for Nyssa to carry on travelling in the TARDIS rather than stay on Traken means there can be more Big Finish audios to enjoy. And it's still going strong today with more stories featuring the Doctor and Nyssa. I highly recommend 'Primeval' to anyone who loves the Doctor and Nyssa audios as I do.

There's a trailer at the end of Disc 2 for the story called 'The One Doctor', featuring Colin Baker, Bonnie Langford and Christopher Biggins which I gather is a good one.

The next audio story in the series with the Doctor and Nyssa is 'Spare Parts'.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Oct 2013 00:05:01 BDT
timelord007 says:
One of the Fifth Doctor's best audios & superb review Tim.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Apr 2014 13:57:41 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Apr 2014 13:58:13 BDT
Tim Bradley says:
Thanks timelord. Glad you enjoyed my review for 'Primeval'.
Yes it is a terrific Fifth Doctor story with strong performances and characters.
Thank you for dedicating your review to me. Tim.
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