On the Beach

Big Finish Folly, Part 86 – The Sandman, by Simon A Forward

The Clutch – a travelling, interstellar market. Thousands of starships linked together in an ever-shifting mass, watched over by the nomadic Galyari. But the Galyari have a secret: The Sandman, an ancient, terrible foe who eats their young, takes their skins, and who threatens to destroy them all. And, wouldn’t you know it, here he comes now, laughing, baiting, in his coat of far too many colours… hello, Doctor…

The Clutch is a cool concept. I love the idea of such a market, that would never be the same from one moment to the next. And the Galyari, nomads who call each planet they colonise “home” – but this story doesn’t quite work for me. If the essence of Doctor Who is that it is good against evil, a renegade putting things to rights, then it is very difficult to empathise with the Doctor through all too much of The Sandman. He roars, throws his weight about, does the Imperial Master impersonation to the hilt, much to Evelyn’s bemusement, but his reason for doing so doesn’t really hang together and actually doesn’t seem to work as part of his personality. Perhaps McCoy’s Doctor would resort to such manipulations, but the sheer theatricality of Ol’ Sixey’s performance only serves to highlight the implausibility of the scenario.

The Galyari are overwhelmed by the Sandman – they have internal politics of their own, but these get lost in the shadows of the Doctor’s visit. And Evelyn, sad to say, gets to do nothing more than snark in the background. Even Anneke Wills (Polly back in the ’60s) is lost behind the creature effects, but her character is at least one of the stronger presences in the story.

One of the weakest stories of this “season” of Big Finish Folly, unfortunately. Let’s hope the next batch is better – but for the meantime, let’s rejoin the 50th Anniversary trilogy and see what the Doctor and Peri have to do with the Space Race…
**¾

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