Taking a quick break from our chronological trawl through the Sixth Doctor’s Main Range adventures, it’s time to go back to Peter Davison’s tenure and the latest three chapters of the continuing Nyssa/Tegan/Turlough arc (which began with Cobwebs and was last covered with The Butcher of Brisbane). If these three are going to live up to the standard set by last year’s triptych, they’re going to have to start with one heck of a blast…
Big Finish Folly, Part 28a – Eldrad Must Die! by Marc Platt
After encountering Magnus Greel, the Doctor must do battle with another of his old adversaries – Eldrad of Kastria, last seen falling into an abyss in The Hand of Fear. Of course dying from that sort of height is quite passé these days and no self-respecting villainous megalomaniac would be seen um… dead… yeah. I’ll stop.
This is modern-day coastal Britain, where a small town is being affected horribly by the sudden appearance of quartz crystals in the food chain. Gulls, fish, drinking water – nothing is safe. And the crystals are growing. When they arrive in town – a brief stopover for a paddle in the sea – Team Tardis quickly get involved. Turlough is surprised further by the appearance of an old school friend – who is revealed to be a fellow Trion. There’s definitely something odd going on…
This being modern old-Who, the plot isn’t actually as simple as it might first appear. Eldrad might indeed be scheduled for an encore, but for most of the time he is relegated to the background while the team struggle to understand what is going on, wrest information from a whale, steal cars, and get infected by the quartz. The controlling intelligence behind Gibbs and the rest of the strange occurances is Kastrian – but is being used as much as Gibbs and Turlough are themselves.
There’s a pattern with this series of releases, designed to give each companion a moment to shine within the three-story release arc. This time it’s Turlough, and Mark Strickson certainly plays Turlough’s wheedling, cowardly side for all it is worth here, especially in the final episode. Janet Fielding gives him a run for his money though, but that does leave Nyssa effectively sidelined while the main action is taking place.
There are a few fluffed moments – the scene where Turlough actually has to shoot Tegan is one, and it is unclear how or why she survives this; the revelation that all four members of the crew are quartzed up could also have been played for more dramatic tension (rather than “oh look, me too”). To make up for that, the return to Kastria itself is well handled, and the way the Executioner is trapped in her own quest is a nice touch. This particular Tardis crew is always very well written and the interplay between the four personalities is funny and natural; sometimes this means the Doctor is almost a guest-star in his own show, but here it’s all very *coff* organic.