This is the 124th release in the Main Release range by Big Finish, and picks up on many threads that have been laid down in previous releases. Most directly, at the end of The Raincloud Man (#116), the Doctor and Charley’s relationship had hit a bit of a rocky patch, as the Doctor knows Charley is lying to him; but he doesn’t know what about, or why. Charley is determined not to tell him the truth about how she has met another of his incarnations. In the Tardis, Charley suddenly seems to fall ill. The Doctor keeps her condition as stable as he can in the Zero Room in the Tardis, and tries to find a cure for her. Meanwhile, on the Amethyst Viral Containment Station, Supervisor Fratalin is discussing with the captain of a spaceship the latest, and last delivery. Now he waits for his masters, the Viyrans.
This is a fantastic story. The Viyrans have been teased in earlier stories, most particularly in the four one-part stories that have followed a ‘virus’ thread (#94, Urgent Calls, #95, Urban Myths, #97 The Vanity Box, #102 Mission of the Viyrans). So we, the listeners have some clue as to what might be coming when the Viyrans are mentioned. But the Doctor has never heard of them; and has no idea what they might want, or be trying to achieve. In the meantime, he’s desperately trying to save Charley, but Charley has more issues than even the Doctor is aware of. And there are others, too, who are interested in the viruses abord the containment station, and the Doctor is about to find himself in a whole lot of trouble that has consequences he may not realise, until it’s too late.
This is a story with very few cast, but quite a lot of characters. That’s because Michael Maloney plays Fratalin and all his familiars (800 of them), and Nicholas Briggs plays all the parts of the Daleks. So there are only 5 people in the cast, and they are all brilliant. Colin Baker has a lot of shouting and emotional expressiveness to do in this story, and he does it brilliantly. India Fisher plays Charley well, as some consequences unfold for her. Nicholas Briggs plays the Daleks wonderfully (and Captain Etheron), and towards the end when the Dalek Time Controller is talking with the Doctor, the voice of the Dalek becomes incredibly creepy and ‘knowing’ as he works out what has happened. Jess Robinson is wonderful as Mila – tragic and broken, yet scheming to save herself. And Michael Maloney as Fratalin is terrific.
The story is complex and many-layered. The narrative unfolds at a rapid pace, and I never felt that there was a wasted moment in the whole story. There is action aplenty, as well as personal revelations for many of the characters. The Daleks are as evil and malevolent as you could ever want them to be, and the Viyrans, when they appear are magnificently distant and all-powerful. Terrific.
At the end of the second cd, there is also a short bonus feature, Part 4 of The Three Companions, with the Brigadier’s Story told by Nicholas Briggs. This is part 4 of a 12 part story (which has now been compiled and is available as a cd set in itself), which features the Brigadier, Polly and Thomas Brewster.