01/03/2010. Contributed by Sue Davies
pub: Big Finish. 2 CDs 100 minutes. Price: CD: £14.99 (UK), Download: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-445-0) cast: Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Nabil Shaban, Malcolm Rennie, Maggie Steed, Susan Franklyn, Tina Jones, William Townsend, Callum Witney Mills, Nicholas Briggs and James George
check out web site www.BigFinish.com
This particular story was scripted for the lost stories of the Sixth Doctor in 1985, the year that it was taken off the air to pay for some rubbish that got cancelled after a few episodes or if you prefer, the soap that is 25 years-old this year, 'Eastenders'.
The original cantankerous Doctor did not get the chance to mature and usually came across as a spoilt pubescent brat. His audio persona which has been finely honed is one of the best and most interesting to listen to. He's been afforded what he didn't get on the TV - time for a Time Lord to develop and Baker was freed from the approach of the TV producers who seemed to be more interested in the guest actors than the Doctor.
The scripts that were shelved at least prove that the intention was to produce some solid stories and they have translated well into the audio form.
Written by Philip Martin ('Star Cops', 'Gangsters'), 'Mission To Magnus' involves a budget-busting trip to another planet in a story that feels influenced by 'Star Trek' and other elements such as the Women's Liberation Movement. There is a running theme about women being in charge and how this is against the natural order of things. Given that the UK had a female prime minister at the time, it's not hard to draw some comparisons with preoccupations of the period. Amazing to think how backward it seems now. The way it is eventually dealt with has great comedic value for sure but as is pointed out in the extras, it feels a historic piece and is played as such.
'Mission To Magnus' opens with a meeting between the Doctor and an old antagonist from school. The Time Lord, Anzor, the school bully, is on his way to Magnus and has been caught in a trap. He tricks The Doctor into taking his place in his TARDIS but he and Peri manage to escape. When they arrive on Magnus, they meet some boys who treat them as gods and call Peri mother.
Meanwhile, the ladies who rule Magnus are negotiating with Time Lord Anzor for a chance to reset their timeline to avoid being conquered by a neighbouring planet. They fail to convince him and start to probe his mind to get the secrets of time travel.
There's another villain of the piece, the Sil, as previously seen and heard on 'Mindwarp'...in which Peri is seen to be killed by a character called Siv. There is a total blip in continuity which you will have to ignore as it will drive you mad. The Sil, you may know, is a trader, a Del Boy spiv of the universe. In fact he's a Ferengi before they were invented. He's happy to change sides and face whichever way the wind blows. Despite being quite small and permanently in the bath, Sil is always ready to duck and dive to make some money.
All this and there is yet another enemy that lurks beneath the surface and it doesn't much like the Doctor.
There is a lot going on in this audio but, despite that, it manages to make sense and reach a balanced conclusion. I take my hat off to Philip Martin who manages to juggle so many balls in the air.
The story does sound dated but in a way that it has been reserved and played with gently so it isn't touched too much by our modern sensibilities. It does sit well outside the modern series of audios but it has a charm of its own, even down to the cheesy dialogue given to Nick Briggs, who plays many characters with many different hats.
There are some solid support performances, not least by Maggie Steed, a goddess among actors anyway and also Malcolm Rennie who plays Anzor as a bluff but articulate bully. Full marks to Nabil Shaban for pulling off the most evil laugh in the galaxy as Sil and I'm sure that's a candidate for a trendy ringtone. See, Sil's marketing skills have rubbed off on me.
This project of Big Finish is turning into an epic and it is doing these classic scripts justice with high production values and attention to detail. 'Mission To Magnus' is another thoroughly enjoyable excursion into the past. Classic Doctor Who indeed.
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