2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Revival of an old format (and old villains!),
This review is from: Seasons of Fear (Doctor Who) (Audio CD)
"On New Year's Eve, 1930, the Doctor lets Charley keep her appointment at the Raffles hotel in Singapore. But his unease at what he's done to time by saving her life soon turns into fear. Sebastian Grayle: immortal, obsessed, ruthless, has come to the city to meet the Time Lord. To the Doctor, he's a complete stranger, but to Grayle, the Doctor is an old enemy.
"An enemy that, many years ago, he finally succeeded in killing. And this is his only chance to gloat.
"The Doctor and Charley desperately search human history for the secret of Grayle's power and immortality. Their quest takes in four different time periods, the Hellfire Club, the court of Edward the Confessor and the time vortex itself. And when the monsters arrive, the stakes are raised from the life of one Time Lord to the existence of all humanity."
Paul Cornell and Caroline Symcox's "Seasons of Fear" bravely attempts to revive a long-lost Who tradition: the 'road' story, where one ongoing theme connects several mini-adventures set at different points in space and time, a format popular with the First Doctor in such stories as "The Keys of Marinus", "The Chase" and "The Daleks' Master Plan" but barely seen since.
Whilst "Seasons of Fear" is refreshing in many ways for this departure from the norm, it is also the story's undoing. Great efforts are made to flesh out the characters inhabiting these various settings and indeed we certainly get to know who is who even though the characters have limited exposure, but there is no particular reason for the use of many of the settings presented, and the events that take place in each location are largely generic in favour of the broader story arc. The whole nature of the paradox around which this story revolves seems contrived - that is, the mini-paradox peculiar to this story, not the bigger paradox of Charley being alive when she should have died (lest you were getting confused); and indeed, the larger paradox is better handled, with the story clearly contributing towards events that are yet to come, including narration by the Doctor that turns out by the end of the story to be a flash-forward.
The story is rescued, thankfully, by the enthusiasm of Paul McGann and India Fisher, the latter getting a more emotional role to play than in some past outings and making the most of it, and an excellent turn by Stephen Perring as evolving villain Sebastian Grayle. The eventual revelation of the real villains may or may not be unexpected, depending on the listener's knowledge of Who history, and the sound design and score are decent, if not the best that Big Finish has produced.
It is possible that my opinion of Seasons of Fear will improve on subsequent listens. For now, however, I would describe it as an average tale that is both liberated and confined by its format.