Slight Return…

Big Finish Folly, Part 76 – Her Final Flight, by Julian Shortman

With the Tardis behaving erratically, the Doctor arrives on a desolate backwater world to find Peri living with the locals. The priest sees the malfunctioning Tardis as a gateway to the gods, but Chronon radiation threatens to kill off everything in the area. Somehow the Doctor has to save Peri and get the leaky Tardis away from the planet – but he keeps blacking out himself, and cannot understand what is hapening to him. And suddenly he is presented with a stark choice: Peri, or the Tardis. He cannot save both…

In a “season” of guest stars, it makes sense to have a returning companion – and after all, the Doctor and Peri had unfinished business when they parted during Trial of a Timelord. But it quickly transpires that Peri’s presence on this backwater world is not what it appears to be, and that the writer has possibly shown his hand a little too soon. What the Doctor perceives to be Peri is actually a hired assassin, sent to put ol’ Sixey to bed before he can see off the assassin’s employer in the future (thus changing history).

Once all the pieces are in play, the plot boils down to a series of enforced choices – save Peri or the Tardis? Save Peri or himself? – as the Doctor is manoeuvered into a position where he can no longer even save himself. It’s here that the deus ex machina comes into play, as the assassin’s simulation allows the Doctor a glimpse of what is controlling his perceptions. Not the strongest of plots, but one which gives Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant good opportunities to extend the range of their characters – this is a sort of “Didn’t we work well together?” piece, with reflections, apologies and the Doctor musing at the end that he really ought to find out what actually happened to Peri. It only falls flat because we already know from the beginning that the Peri of this particular episode is not Peri at all.

Interestingly, however, Colin Baker’s Doctor is moving on apace, filling out the role far more than he did during his official TV tenure. This is a Doctor who is aware of his own shortcomings, but also a much harder man who allows the assassin to fool herself into her own fate – and then hangs around until the bitter end to ensure that she won’t be coming after him. You can sort of see McCoy coming from a mile off…

So, with that – a rating? Difficult. It’s certainly better than I thought it would be, but it isn’t quite as good as I think it ought to have been. If that makes any sense.
***¾

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