Onwards and upwards – to the first tale in my “second season” of 5th Doctor audio plays.
Creatures of Beauty, by Nicholas Briggs
The TARDIS has malfunctioned and arrived on the planet Veln, which is fatally tainted by dyestrial toxins. The Veln suspect Nyssa of being an agent for the alien Koteem who engineered their destruction four generations ago.
Nothing is as it appears in this story. Even the Doctor is not a totally innocent bystander…
Told in a mazy, disjointed fashion that takes a few minutes to get used to, Creatures of Beauty is actually a very good tale. The structure is deliberately designed to conceal a couple of Very Important Plot points, and the history of the Veln is dripfed to the listener until the true nature of the disaster becomes appallingly clear. Nyssa is mistreated badly by the Veln, yet they are not really the “bad guys” of the piece. In fact there are no bad guys as such, just shades of grey, which highlights the characters and their individual motivations instead. By doing that, Briggs turns the Doctor’s blithe adventurism into a failing and a disability – a brave move that ultimately makes for a more satisfying story, if a pretty downbeat one.
Perhaps it is a bit much to have two survival-through-genetic-modification stories side by side, but release-wise these tales were issued 10 months apart. It is clear however that Big Finish’s 5th Doctor is not the “omnipotent Time Lord” most folk assume the Doctor to be – conflicted, inflicted with a fatal curiosity, and clearly still affected by Adric’s death, you get the sense that his ignorance of the true cause of the dyestrial poisoning is a blessing as much as a curse. Another brilliant play – and hardly the last, either…