Sixth and final release in the first season of Doctor Who audios from Big Finish to see Tom Baker as the Doctor alongside Louise Jameson as Leela.
The releases in this run have all stood largely on their own and been the kind of thing you could get into without having heard earlier releases. But this is the second of a two part story that began with Trail of the White Worm (Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures), and it begins right where the cliffhanger ending to that one left off. With very little catch up for new listeners. So you really do need to hear that one first in order to get into this.
This review thus contains some spoilers so only read on if you have heard the above.
This one runs for two parts of twenty seven minutes each in length [approx] and is complete on one single cd.
And it sees the fate of planet Earth in the balance as the Master's allies arrive. As you'll see from the box cover, it's the Kraals, the rhino like aliens last seen in the tv story 'the android invasion.'
With the Doctor having fallen prisoner to them, can Leela save the day? Luckily she has a rather surprising ally.
But whilst the Kraals have a plan, so does the Master. And this is only the start of it...
After the slightly surprising tone of white worm, this one comes as a nice surprise. Because it moves away from the potential for big battles and explosions that you might usually have in a season finale, and does something rather different. The plot is exceptionally clever and cunning and there are constant twists and surprises that really keep the listener hooked and on their toes.
The tone of the whole thing is just right as well. Never too grim [aside from a couple of moments] and never too silly. Some jokey lines are laugh out loud funny.
One part of the resolution does feel a little rushed, but that's only a minor complaint.
Because there's still one delightful surprise to come after that.
This is a novel and well written story, a lot of fun to listen to, and a great way to end this run of them.
The Fourth Doctor and Leela will return to audio in due course. But in the meantime, his next batch of audios will feature the first Romana. The first of them is out in January 2013 and is called 'the auntie matter' [there's no amazon listing at the time of writing thus no product link] but you can hear a trailer for the whole season on the track of this cd that comes after the end of part two.
And thirteen or so minutes of interviews with cast and crew from this story on the tracks after that.
Any suspense that may have been aroused by the cliff hanger at the end of the previous story is a bit wasted considering the title and cover for this audiobook. That aside it is good to see the Kraals eventually return. The Kraals were created by Terry Nation, and though they were no Daleks they are much better than the Vord. So it is a little surprising that they have never been re-used until now.
The Kraals suffer in two ways in this audio. Firstly they have a lot of similarities to the Sontarans, and the play could easily have featured them instead of the Kraals. This is exacerbated by the casting of Dan Starkey (who plays Strax and numerous other Sontarans) as Marshal Grinmal. This issue is acknowledged by the cast and production crew in the extra features that accompany the play but there is, perhaps, little that can be done about it with no visual reference. Besides, my three year old self believed ‘The Android Invasion’ featured Sontarans.
The second issue with the Kraals, and this exacerbates the first, is that they aren’t really the main focus of the story and there is little to distinguish them as a species within it. This is because the Master and the Kraals’ androids are focussed on instead.
This all leads to a lot of messing around with doubles/android duplicates. Similar tricks were used to greater effect in ‘The Android Invasion’ and other Doctor Who stories. After a while it becomes a bit repetitive and irritating. Even so it is amusing to see the Master become a victim of himself. As this is a Fourth Doctor story this is the decayed version of the Master seeking to replenish himself somehow as he does in both ‘The Deadly Assassin’ and ‘The Keeper of Traken’. Leela’s response to him and later interaction is one of the best aspects of the story. Similar to her experience with the Daleks two stories previous to this, Leela’s mind is not easily possessed.
The play seems to be unnecessarily generous to the extremely right wing Spindleton. The play endeavours to try and make him a sympathetic figure in its latter stages. This feels a little false, however. Throughout this play and the previous he seems a much more willing participant in the Master’s schemes, hoping to benefit from them, rather than a mesmerised victim. The Spindleton/Simpleton running joke also wears a bit thin.
This story follows directly on from Trail of the White Worm, and features the Fourth Doctor as played by Tom Baker and Leela played by Louise Jameson.
At the end of the Trail of the White Worm the Master had called on his allies to come through the wormhole to Earth and the action picks up directly from there. The Master's allies, the Kraal are going to take over Earth, and the Master's stooge on earth Colonel Hugh Simpleton ("it's Spindleton!" "I know what I meant") believes the good old Earth of his memories is about to be revitalised for him. But of course there's a lot more to it than that.
The Trail of the White Worm seemed to hurry along a bit and didn't really seem to go anywhere in a big hurry (see my review for my slight annoyance about two part stories on one cd, and that you HAVE to get The Oseidon Adventure if you want to resolve the cliffhanger at the end of the Trail of the White Worm), but this story more than makes up for that. The action bounds from one place to another, and the Doctor and Leela are in top form. I like the involvement of UNIT, and the `hecilopter', as Leela calls it. There are twists and turns a'plenty, and the wry humour and madcap action of the Fourth Doctor and Leela stories is very well captured here. This is great stuff, and definitely makes up for the slightly slower start to the whole story in the Trail of the White Worm.