This is the hundred and fifty ninth release from Big Finish in their range of full cast audio adventures starring classic Doctor Whos. It stars Peter Davison as Five, with Mark Strickson as Turlough, Sarah Sutton as the older Nyssa and Janet Fielding as Tegan. There are four episodes, roughly 25-30 minutes each, complete with cliffhangers and original theme music between each. Two episodes per disc on 2 discs, and a short booklet with some pictures of the cast and production notes. There are some interviews with cast and crew at the end of the second disc and a few minutes of the soundtrack at the end of disc 1.
This is a difficult story for me to review in some respects, because it totally played with my preconceptions of what it would be like. I have detested the previous two trilogies for this particular TARDIS crew for a variety of reasons, mainly the horrible character of Tegan and the sidelining of companions for long periods as there are too many of them to get a decent slice of the action each. Also some of the plots and ideas have been poor and poorly realised. I was dreading listening to this, expecting the run of form to continue with a seventh execrable release. But WOW!!!! I never thought I would say it, but this story is amazing, and I am forced to reassess some of the harsh words I have previously uttered regarding this TARDIS crew – given the right material they can really shine! Tegan, previously my least favourite companion (except of course for Adric...) is totally redeemed here, and finally Big Finish do for her what they have previously done for Mel, Peri, Nyssa and to some extent Adric (in ‘The Boy That Time Forgot’) and reinvigorated a previously little regarded TV companion into a potential fan favourite. Look at this! I am praising Tegan! Usually my thoughts regarding her character are reflected in the quote in the review title, but following this adventure I am reassessing my opinion and becoming a bit of a fan. I never thought that would happen.
Anyway, enough of my gibbering ramblings about stories past, what about this story? It’s a delicious Rudyard Kipling/ H Rider Haggard/ Conan Doyle pastiche with nods to EM Forster and others in a particularly literate script. The story opens jarringly with a naturalist’s expedition not far from Calcutta in the late 19th century. There is a short and shocking incident then the story fast forwards several years to the arrival of four travellers in Calcutta to watch the cricket. Soon Nyssa is infected with a strange virus, the TARDIS lost and the companions split up. There follows a desperate race across India to find a cure, the TARDIS and each other. The chase ends up in a mysterious sealed valley, with even more mysterious wildlife. Along the way we meet some great characters, the sage and humanitarian Professor Narayan, the dastardly Major Haggard and the enigmatic Lady Forster. Combined with an excellent premise, the curse of the Emerald Tiger, this makes for a thrilling tale, well told. As well as the excellent and memorable supporting characters, the regulars all get a fair amount to do, and as I have previously mentioned the subtle recharactisation of Tegan from merely annoying to a more likeable and useful yet still sarcastic and abrasive character is very welcome. It’s a thrilling rollercoaster of a ride, 5 stars. This is now the eighth story in a row that I feel has deserved the highest possible mark, an unprecedented run of form from Big Finish. I hope it continues!