Written by Emma Beeby and Gordon Rennie, Jonathan Barnes, Catherine Harvey
Published by Big Finish
This audio drama featuring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa was the Big Finish Christmas release. And what a gift is inside its 120 minutes, with three short tales interconnected into a longer bridging narrative.
The Doctor and Nyssa are seeking an alien beacon that is summoning an unknown race to a Sultan’s palace. When the Doctor is imprisoned by said Sultan, he finds a fellow inmate with a secret. Meanwhile, Nyssa negotiates for the Doctor’s release with a series of tales about their travels.
So far, so portmanteau. But as this audio progresses, the image of a Russian Doll comes to mind. There are characters within characters, tales within tales, and Doctors within Doctors. The first of Nyssa’s stories finds her and the Doctor in a futuristic asylum, where a solitary man is kept chained and tortured by a mysterious warden. The second takes place in a Victorian house where the Doctor has sheltered Nyssa while she harbours a demon. The third story within a story is set on the planet of Fabula, where stories are currency that can be bartered and sold on the black market.
A diverse range of tales then, as befits this audio’s four writers. But director Barnaby Edwards ensures the wealth of ideas form a cohesive whole, with the company of actors taking two or three roles each. One or two characters fail to fully form in their limited time, but most hit the mark, with Alexander Siddig excelling as the Sultan with his own terrible secret. Sarah Sutton adds to her CV with a demon straight out of the Exorcist movies.
There are a few teases along the way, not least when it seems we might get a Fourth Doctor story set before Logopolis (one for the 50th year, maybe), but this is a rich tapestry of story, character and ideas that deserves several listens to fully appreciate its beauty.
(As if this wasn’t enough of a Christmas present, subscribers got a further gift in their stocking with 1001 Nights – an actual Fourth Doctor tale continuing his adventures with Leela. Night of the Stormcrow will get a general release in December 2013. Trust me, it’s worth the wait).