This is the 161st story in the Main Range series by Big Finish, first released in 2012. Written by Marc Platt, this story features the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) travelling with one of my favourite Tardis teams, Tegan (Janet Fielding), Turlough (Mark Strickson) and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton).
The Tardis is on its way to Australia, to visit Tegan’s home, where she is very excited to be able to show the others around. On the way, though, the Tardis impacted by some sort of event, and Nyssa and Turlough are separated from the others and taken … where? Finding themselves in some sort of frozen hell, Nyssa and Turlough are horrified to find withered and aged corpses appearing out of nowhere. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Tegan are desperately trying to find where the others have been taken, and to get there to rescue them. Materialising the Tardis, the Doctor finds that they are on Earth in the 51st century - a world on the brink of war, where factions struggle for the ultimate control, and a man called Magnus Greel, the Minister of Justice of the Supreme Alliance of Eastern States plans to take that control, with the scientific help provided by Dr Sa Yy Findecker.
This story stands as a prequel to the classic Robert Holmes-authored Doctor Who tv story, The Talons of Weng-Chiang which featured the Fourth Doctor and Leela, and first aired in Season 14 in 1977. This story became an instant classic, and Big Finish have built further on the world introduced to us in that story, with the wonderful Jago and Litefoot stories, featuring characters who appeared first in Talons.
The Butcher of Brisbane, then, picks up the story of Magnus Greel, in his past, but the Doctor’s future. The Doctor knows what the future must hold for Magnus Greel, and has to not interfere with that destiny. But he also knows the reputation that Greel holds in the 51st century and after, and he must try to limit the damage that can occur, while saving his friends. The story is laced throughout with references that will be familiar to those who know the story of Talons – the 51st century, Time Agents, zygma energy, the time cabinet, Mr Sin. But I do think if you don’t know the story of Talons, you would still be able to thoroughly enjoy this story as a stand-alone, understanding clearly that the Doctor knows something of Greel, and that he knows he cannot disrupt the timeline.
The character of Findecker has appeared before, but only in a short story published in the Doctor Who Magazine issue 174, Under Reykjavik. A listener to this story is not disadvantaged by not having read that earlier story.
This is a brilliant story. Marc Platt has taken all the elements that were picked out in Talons, and woven them into a coherent prequel, with great care and attention. The setting in the 51st century is totally drawn for us, and the characters are all fully created. The fine acting, particularly that of Angus Wright as Magnus Greel, and Rupert Frazer as Findecker deserves special mention. The Tardis crew are all given great parts in this story, and it’s fantastic to hear Tegan and Turlough, in particular, shine in their roles. Superb.