by Andrew Smith
Starring Peter Davison, Janet Fielding,
Mark Stickson and Sarah Sutton
Once again, Adric would never know if he was right. Having calculated the coordinates to pilot the TARDIS back into E-space in the spare time before his unfortunate encounter with an army of Cybermen, it’s instead left to The Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough to endure the journey through the CVE back to Alzarius.
The travellers have little time available to acclimatise though, as realisation dawns that they’ve arrived on the planet at the worst possible time. Mistfall: when the tranquil, leafy idyll of Alzarius becomes a snarling, biting, poisonous mist-drenched nightmare. Seemingly abandoning the notion of security in numbers, the TARDIS crew divide in two to explore and while The Doctor and Tegan encounter an off-world survey team investigating the planetary eco-system, Turlough and Nyssa get caught up with a small team of saboteurs. Set several hundred years after the Time Lord’s previous visit, his previous efforts there are remembered sufficiently to secure a welcome from the survey team leadership.
Operating as a sequel to Full Circle, it’s of benefit to have a working knowledge of that televised adventure, though not a vital requirement. For me, my recollections of The Fourth Doctor and Romana’s encounters with Marshmen, Alzarian society and – that boy again – Adric, are restricted to what I can remember from viewing it back in the day. I’ve been nervous of watermelons (and their potential long-legged occupants) ever since.
Andrew Smith builds upon the earlier story (which he also authored), but provides an entertaining adventure capable of standing alone. As always, Big Finish provide a sumptuous soundscape, and the incidental music is strongly evocative of early Eighties Who, transporting the listener back in time to Saturday evenings, cringeing at the spiders in the swamps.
Peter Davison is on energetic form throughout, as enthusiastic in audio format as his televised persona. Big Finish secure the talented support of Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart in the telly adventures) to raise everyone’s game, in the role of First Decider Lana Merrion, leading the New Alzarian planetary expedition to uncover the secrets of its eco-system. There’s a strong sense too of a TARDIS crew enjoying travelling together, even with the occasional spiky sparrings between Tegan and Turlough. Where the audio adventures really succeed is in drawing much more upon the talents of The Doctor’s companions, rather than as “What’s happening?” sounding-boards.
Mistfall questions the value of scientific research as against its potential effects upon the ecology being investigated, and whether the end justifies the means. At its heart, there's the slow reveal of an intriguing examination of the dilemmas of leadership and the impact of decisions made to try and secure the least-worst outcome. There’s also more than enough peril and danger from roaring, marauding Marshmen and scratchety, scuttling spiders to entertain throughout the four episode duration. And over the course of the four episodes the motivations of the characters encountered by The Doctor and his friends are revealed in some cases to be rather more shady than first appeared. Beware the seemingly loyal lieutenant!
It’s not a perfect adventure, with The Doctor somehow engineering a rather sudden “let’s all work together” volte-face, involving the previously (justifiably enraged) Marshmen and their New Alzarian captives. Meanwhile, a sequence involving a very protracted threat from the villain of the piece, armed but seemingly preferring to talk about shooting everyone in sight without actually doing so.
I’d be a churl to complain too much though, as Mistfall is an enjoyable listen and a thought-provoking one too. A solid start to an intriguing trilogy of adventures in E-space.
BLOGTOR RATING 7/10
Thanks to Big Finish
Labels: 5th dr audio, Big Finish, big finish audio drama, big finish review, fifth doctor audio drama, Mistfall, Mistfall review