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Wild Nyssa in India!,
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This review is from: The Emerald Tiger (Doctor Who) (Audio CD)
I really like this story - 'The Emerald Tiger'. It's the best one to feature the older Nyssa with the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough. I've had the CD cover for this story signed recently by Sarah Sutton who really likes this story and it's easy to understand why since it's set in India, it's a historical set in 1926 and delves deep into more of Nyssa's character.
The story is about the TARDIS arriving on a train platform in India, where the Doctor and his friends are about to enjoy a game of cricket. Suddenly, a rabid chauffeur of an Indian professor attacks Nyssa and bites her causing her to undergo a strange experience when she telepathically connects to a female tiger and becomes herself a were-tiger. Eventually, the Doctor and his companions go on a quest to help a certain Lady Adela Foster in search of the `emerald tiger'.
This is the first time I've written a review about a story featuring the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and the older Nyssa. When Nyssa re-joined travelling in the TARDIS with her friends in 'Cobwebs', I wasn't really sure whether I would like this set up. This is because I didn't like Nyssa to be old as I always wanted her to be young; beautiful and be on her own with the Doctor. But having listened to the audios since 'Cobwebs' I really have enjoyed this new TARDIS team, and Nyssa is still as beautiful as ever when she's older. And having listened to 'The Emerald Tiger', it really makes up for a cracking good story and a lot of lovely scenes for Nyssa/Sarah to do. I like the connection they made to the `Winter' episode of 'Circular Time' where Nyssa has a family with a husband and kids.
I chatted to Sarah about 'The Emerald Tiger' both at a convention in Glasgow and in Chiswick, London. Sarah has said she'd been to India on holiday (according to the CD interviews) and has fond memories of going there. I asked Sarah about India, and she amusingly responded that she didn't record the story itself in India. I laughed and said they probably should have done it as a TV story with a larger budget (something on a movie scale). Sarah liked that, and I presume that was what writer/director Barnaby Edwards had in mind.
Sarah was pleased I liked this story as well as all the other Big Finish audios she's done. I told her they should be TV stories. She laughed at that. When I saw Sarah in Newcastle, October 2013; I asked her on stage which story she would like to see turned into a TV story. That question was easy to answer for her and she said 'The Emerald Tiger'! Sarah likes doing the historical stories, which I do too because you get a sense of familiarity with being Earth-bound rather than the complicated science-fiction ones. Sarah found doing the following stories, 'The Jupiter Conjunction' and 'The Butcher of Brisbane' rather hard-going unlike 'The Emerald Tiger' since they're futuristic and hard to follow. I must admit I find the futuristic ones quite a challenge to get used to on audio, which is why I enjoyed 'The Emerald Tiger' so much.
Nyssa becoming a 'were-tiger' was fun to listen to and I'm sure Sarah enjoyed doing an acting challenge like that where she growled through her performance. The theme of motherhood comes across very strongly in this story, particularly with Nyssa and Lady Adala. It fits in well how Nyssa's motherhood connects to the were-tiger Dawan, and links Nyssa to previous stories about her children as featured and referenced in `Circular Time' and 'Heroes of Sontar'.
Peter Davison in on top form as ever as the Doctor. His enthusiasm from looking forward to enjoying a cricket match to getting himself involved with this `emerald tiger' business is very engaging. I liked it when the Doctor enthuses about Professor Narayan's `Rolls' Royce'-like car and about the hot-air balloon when travelling to the mountains to find the `emerald tiger'. I really enjoyed the train sequence and the Doctor trying to stop the train in order to rescue Tegan and Turlough who are on board. I felt moved with the Doctor and especially Nyssa grieving over the seeming loss of Tegan who went over the edge on the train. I was struck by how the Doctor turns his anger on Turlough, even threatening to part company with him when they try to get into the caves.
I enjoyed listening to Janet Fielding as Tegan in this story. I found her journey in `Part 4' after she'd fallen over the train very intriguing and when she meets up with the presumed-lost son of Lady Adela who's become a Mogeli sort of character. I liked how Tegan tries to protect Nyssa's family secrets from the Doctor and how she and Nyssa talk about it towards the end of a story, with a certain plot twist. Tegan is as brash and bossy as ever, but she still retains a compassionate side to her which is sometimes very difficult to miss I can tell you.
Mark Strickson as Turlough's very good in this story, when he's with Tegan on the train, talking to the tiger Dawan and finding out information from Lady Adela about her expedition to find the emerald tiger. He gets to have some scenes with the Doctor, when they bicker with one another about the loss of Tegan and trying to rescue Nyssa. I liked it when Turlough defies Major Haggard and challenges his stuck-up opinions about being a good shot and accuses him of nearly killing Nyssa. Mark brings across the wry sardonic side to Turlough, which makes him quite shifty and deceptive in all the stories he's in.
Lady Adela Foster is played by the elegant Cherie Lunghi. I happened to first see Cherie in an episode with Nicholas Farrell of 'The Agatha Christie Hour' called `The Manhood of Edward Robinson'. I only just realised she was in this story, and it was wonderful to listen to her in `Doctor Who'. Cherie brings across the motherly caring side of Lady Adela, which was very sweet to listen to. I loved her reunion with her son Jonathan and enjoyed it when she became strong in using dynamite to defeat Shardul Khan and when confronting Major Haggard.
Major Haggard is played by Neil Stacey, and he definitely portrays the representation of the `British Raj' as the Doctor calls it in India at that time. Haggard gets his way and is so callous when shooting the Narayan's chauffeur and shoots the train driver and engineer when getting aloft from the train. To me, Haggard reminded me of those `superior' aristocrats who lived during the height of the British empire when they were so smug and got away with things when dominating various countries such as India during the 1910-20s.
This is Barnaby Edwards' show, as he wrote and directed this story. Barnaby is known for being one of the Dalek operators, but he's also a very talented actor and a brilliant director of Big Finish audios. I've enjoyed listening to the Stockbridge trilogy (Castle of Fear', 'The Eternal Summer' and 'Plague of the Daleks') which he directed. He casts really good actors, some who he knows very well from theatre. He also writes very well for the main regulars since he knows the actors very well and finds the TARDIS team of that era easy to write for. I've written stories of my own with the Doctor and Nyssa and I must say I find them easy to write for. So it's great that Barnaby Edwards does the Peter Davison team justice and gives them strong character development throughout. I wouldn't be surprised if he came up with another cracking good story with the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough again.
This story definitely has the feel of `The Jungle Book' in it, and Barnaby certainly takes references from Rudyard Kipling as well as popular action movies such as `Raiders of the Lost Ark'. The quality of actors in this story is as ever very good, and I found that Barnaby uses Indian actors to play some of the exotic parts such as Sam Dastor playing Professor Narayan and Vineeta Rishi as Dawan. I found Vincent Ebrahim as Shardul Khan a really chilling villain to listen to, with such a deep and exotic voice and very much like the Shere Khan type of character in `The Jungle Book'. The setting of India is very convincing and with the sound and music in the background to add to the atmosphere is really worth it.
The special features on this CD are as follows. There's a suite of exotic incidental music from the story on Disc 1 with Indian tones and sounds. On Disc 2 there's some behind-the-scenes interviews with Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding, Cherie Lunghi and Barnaby Edwards the director. The interviews with actors are very insightful about India and their experiences of what they know and seen of India itself.
I've listened to this story twice now (thrice since writing this review) and find very easy and enjoyable to listen to. So if you're a Nyssa fan, love historical stories, something 1920s, something set in wild India with tigers and emeralds, then I assure you...this you will tremendously enjoy!
On Disc 2, there's a trailer for the next story for the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough called 'The Jupiter Conjunction'.