01/04/2010. Contributed by Sue Davies
pub: Big Finish. 2 CDs 100 minutes. Price: CD: £14.99 (UK), Download: £12.99 (UK. ISBN: 978-1-84435-446-7)cast: Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Howard Gossington, John Banks, Beth Chalmers, Jamie Parker and Derek Carlyle.
check out web site www.BigFinish.com
Life is harsh in medieval times and life can be short, too. When the time is right, the Hunter Herne comes to kill off the surplus population.
When the Doctor and Peri arrive, they are quick to save one of the unfortunates. The TARDIS puts down in a forest and a castle nearby sets the medieval scene. It sets it a little too well. There's a peculiar smell in the air, too, which the pair can't pin down. Somehow, it all feels wrong.
There's an atmosphere of menace and the villagers are increasingly isolated and fearful. The local lord imposes an iron rule but when the Doctor meets him he feels, again, that there is something not quite right about this era. The truth when they discover it is far more unbelievable than all their conjectures. But there is worse to come and it's down to the Doctor and Peri to save the villagers and their whole way of life before it is obliterated forever.
This audio is a wonderful example of the arcane nature of Doctor Who. The imagination of the original writer Brian Finch creates a world of adventure and mysterious goings-on and is a little treasure house to discover. It probably would have been a budget-blowing experience in the 1980s but is very much the sort of project that is meat and potatoes to the current series having themes in common with the new Doctor's seasons. This narrative messes around nicely with our expectations and assumptions about just where and when the travellers have arrived. It certainly manages to pack in a lot of action, scary creatures and food for thought in its two hours. It's quite a complex plot in the end and draws lots of threads together in a value-added package of a story.
It's a tricky pitch to place the interpretation of this Doctor back in the 80s and sit these stories between the two Colin Baker seasons. He's a little more snippy than in his warmer modern persona and a little more obsessed with the well-being of the TARDIS over people but it is difficult to go backwards when the character has been moved on so much since then. It's not long before we settle into the regular pattern as the Doctor and Peri end up in different points of the village and must attempt to survive as they try to get through to the villagers the extent of their peril. Needless to say, Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant as Peri give it their all as usual along with a mighty cast-mostly voiced by a non-budget busting three other people.
Brian Finch's son, Paul, has adapted the original screenplay for audio and allowed us to experience this marvellous world. It is one of the surprisingly agreeable stories rescued from the obscurity of novelisation and brought into the light. This definitely deserved a second chance.
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