Written by Alan Barnes
Published by Big Finish
The concluding audio drama in Big Finish’s first season of Fourth Doctor adventures follows on directly from last month’s mad, and madly enjoyable, Trail of the White Worm. Sadly, for all its build up, this release collapses under its convoluted plot.
With the Master’s wormhole beckoning the Kraal back to Earth (after their first failed visit in the TV adventure The Android Invasion), the Fourth Doctor and Leela must foil the aliens’ plan to lay waste to Earth. However, this plan is just a cover for an even more devastating plot devised by the Master himself.
Yes, this is an audio drama that twists and turns its way through sixty minutes, aided and abetted by the Kraals’ capacity to produce android simulations of real people. The listener is constantly playing catch up as android double after android double is revealed, as if a Russian Doll has been placed in an infinity loop. The result is confusing and, after a while, quite farcical. Tom Baker seems keen to milk the humour in this situation, but that only weakens any drama and tension in the piece.
There are still moments to savour here. Leela’s newfound talent as a horse whisperer is a delight, and gives rise to a few moments of real excitement and a clever little reveal at the very end of the tale. And the return of UNIT, complete with references to the Brigadier and the Doctor’s London lab, will certainly please the fans. However, after the earlier triumphs of this series, such as The Renaissance Man and The Wrath of the Iceni, it is a shame to conclude with what is effectively an audio pantomime.
Big Finish have promised a darker edge to the next run of Fourth Doctor and Leela tales, due for release in 2014, and one hopes they come good on that promise. This pairing could run as long as the rude health of the main performers continues, but not if the characters are wasted on stories like this one.