Big Finish Folly, Part 10

Whoah. We’re into double figures here. Hands up if you didn’t expect me to be able to carry on this far. Anyway, after the shock ending of the last episode, it’s back to Victorian London we go, and to an experiment that is about to go very badly wrong…

The Boy That Time Forgot, by Paul Magrs

“Season three” of the 5th Doctor audios starts with a bang. I’ve heard a few of Paul Magrs’s 4th Doctor tales before (Hornets Nest) and they seemed particularly suited to Tom Baker’s style of adventure – a sort of Home Counties insanity with china tea service, stuffed animals, and murderous wasps. Superficially perhaps, Peter Davison’s 5th Doctor isn’t too far from that brand of insania, but this Doctor is far more grounded and less likely to spin off into the distance with the plot tucked firmly under his arm. Nevertheless, this play is decidedly bonkers…

Stranded in 19th century London, the Doctor attempts to locate the Tardis by using block computational theory and a seance to create a very rough exploratory probe into time and space. During this process he, Nyssa, and a pair of semi-willing volunteers are pulled into the time-stream… and dumped into a prehistoric jungle. With a city built by intelligent giant scorpions. Who are governed by someone neither the Doctor nor Nyssa thought they would ever see again…

I don’t think it is spoiling too much to say that this certain someone is a much-aged Adric, who has also been using block computational theory in his own efforts to pull the Doctor here for his own reasons. Played, in a suitably unhinged fashion, by Andrew Sachs rather than by Matthew Waterhouse, Adric’s loneliness in his new empire has driven him rather batshit crazy. As ever with a Paul Magrs script however, the real delights are in the dialogue as well as the incidental characters – Rupert Von Thal and Beatrice Mapp. Apparently Rupert and Beatrice will return in non-Who books, and there is even a reference to a certain Wildthyme. More injokes and nudge-winks than your usual Whovian tales.

I’m not convinced by the scorpion characters at all, on the downside, and the psychic wavelength twaddle used to get past the language barriers is best not thought about. Another negative is that Rupert & Beatrice are favoured far more than Nyssa, whose role in this play seems little more than to be the object of Adric’s geriatric thigh-rubbing. For me, the concept is better than the execution.

There was a clear opportunity here to give the 5th Doctor a season away from the Tardis, surrounded by Victoriana and early steampunkery, in much the same way that the 8th Doctor found himself in the Divergent Universe for a while (more of that, of course, much further on down the line…). That would have been fun, because I think Davison’s Doctor would thrive in that era just as much as Tom Baker’s would have done. But Big Finish obviously had different ideas (plus this would probably have trodden on Jago & Litefoot’s toes) – a deus ex aranea¹ coda resets the stage for more interdimensional shenanigans. Of which, more anon.

Buy it here

¹ deus ex aranea – god from the spiders. Don’t worry, it’ll all make sense when you listen to it…


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