Circular Time, by Paul Cornell & Mike Maddox
Now here’s a little oddity. Circular Time is a themed collection of four stories, rather than one single play. I wasn’t too sure about this when I came to it – how can you tell a decent Doctor Who story in just half an hour? And then do that another three times? And without pictures, too?
Clearly I needn’t have worried. This might be only the eighth 5th Doctor play, chronologically speaking, but in release order this is the 91st Big Finish production. These fellas have it down to a T. And the fact that Paul Cornell is involved should soothe any remaining worries. These four plays actually feel like they are exactly the right length – any longer, and they’d be dragging out the plots with needless verbiage.
The concept, as the title implies, links each tale with a season. The spring, summer, autumn and winter of Nyssa’s friendship with the Doctor – or, more specifically, with the 5th Doctor. And so while the first two tales are upbeat affairs, playful and speedy, almost puzzles and challenges rather than full-on adventures, with guests Hugh Fraser and David Warner both having huge fun with their roles, the second pair of stories sail on into uncharted waters and the darker side of the characters’ emotions.
Autumn is full of unease, regret, second thoughts and a struggle for identity – and also features both cricket and Nyssa falling in love. It isn’t what you expect from a Doctor Who episode, and is all the better for it. Very ambitious, and quite possibly the best of the bunch. Well worth a second listen. Winter – now, technically, Winter takes place during the Doctor’s transformation from Peter Davison into Colin Baker and so I’m breaking my own rules about chronology but somehow I don’t think anybody will sue me – anyway, Winter gets all metaphysical and metaphorical on the Doctor’s ass, as well as giving Nyssa her own post-TV coda (at least, until she rejoins the crew again later on – but hush, I’m getting ahead of myself!). A fitting conclusion to the four seasons, but not my favourite of the four.