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Doctor Who - The Lost Stories: The Nightmare Fair by Graham Williams and adapted by John Ainsworth

01/02/2010. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Doctor Who The Lost Stories: The Nightmare Fair in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who The Lost Stories: The Nightmare Fair in the UK

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pub: Big Finish. 100 minutes 2 CDs. Price: CD: 14.99 (UK), download: 12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-444-3) cast: Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, David Bailie, Matthew Noble, Andrew Fettes, Louise Faulkner, William Whymper, Toby Longworth and Duncan Wisbey.

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The Doctor and Peri are having a little downtime and decide to visit Blackpool, (there seems to be a current theme about Blackpool and Big Finish).

They're not really there for the candy floss or the fun fair. There's a bit of a vortex-thingie going on and the Doctor is keen to investigate. Still, there's time to have fun on the rides but it's not long before Peri is separated from the Doctor. She acquires a young man on a fairground ride who is investigating the mysterious goings-on at the funfair. He wants to know what has happened to his brother, last seen entering the arcade. The police don't want to know so he tries to recruit Peri to his cause.

The Doctor is hearing voices and pretty soon he's captured by his unknown adversary. Before long, he's in a cell tapping out Three Blind Mice on the wall between him and an unseen prisoner. But it seems his fellow prisoner isn't that musical and he gives up preferring to talk to himself while waiting for someone to come. When the wall disappears, he is surprised to find he knows the person or rather the being in front of him. If there's games involved then it's bound to be the master of games. The Celestial Toymaker is up to his old tricks and wants to engage the Doctor in another match.

Peri, meanwhile, must deal with androids and uncontrollable machine guns and do some more running. Another day, another threat for the companion.

This might be characterised in TV terms as a low budget, Earth-bound series which involves wandering about lots of corridors and being chased by various threatening characters.

One of the scripts originally prepared for the series that never was in 1985, lots of work has been done to get these onto audio. As a result of these Colin Baker stories being rescued, there are plans to follow up on Sylvester McCoy's unmade stories. This is a noble endeavour but these should be approached in the context of the time they were originally written. One of the virtues of Big Finish is its entirely original and well-thought out approach to bringing new stories about classic Doctors and it is important that these particular audios are separate from the continuing monthly series which reflect the on-going development of the Doctors away from their TV personas.

There are enough idiosyncratic characters and plot points to give 'Nightmare Fair' some oomph and drive with the moments of comedy that fit in with the Doctor Who we know and love. However, the recent incarnation of the Toymaker in 'The Magic Mousetrap' with Sylvester McCoy was a more interesting and developed story. At least the character of the Doctor is more the up-to-date non-scratchy one than the TV version of abrasive Colin Baker. The team have obviously taken great care to make it as authentic as possible and it has been adapted by John Ainsworth from the original script by the late Graham Williams. The extras feature Williams' family who were present at part of the recording.

This is effectively homage to the Classic 'Doctor Who' series. I have recently been watching some of Colin Baker's stories 'Trial Of A Time Lord' and feel more in the 80s frame of mind as a result. The garish outfits and monstrous curly hair (sorry, Colin) are of their time. We all have regrets about our 80s hair-styles. The plots of the TV series were not always as dense and layered as the audios we are listening to now. Maybe it's the fact that development time in audio is planned in the longer term and not being constrained by visual effects they can be more extravagant. Maybe those 80s Baker series were dumbed down in part, sacrificing a literate plot for the visual thrills. Like the stage plays recently released, these 'Lost Stories' should be taken in context and will not appeal to all listeners.

Sue Davies

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