Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions
Writer: Andrew Smith
RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)
Release Date: January 2014
Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online
“Drawn off-course, the TARDIS passes through a CVE into a closed universe – a hugely improbable event with a tragically obvious cause. In order to escape inescapable E-Space, the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough are forced to venture in the wilds of planet Alzarius.
But they're not the only unwanted visitors to this strange world. A Starliner has landed, captained by Decider Merrion – but why would Merrion risk rousing the Planet that Slept, and the monsters in its marshes?
Mistfall is coming. The Marshmen are coming. But while Nyssa and Turlough find themselves caught in the open, in the hands of fanatics who model themselves on the legendary Outlers, the Doctor and Tegan discover that the supposedly secure Starliner affords them no protection from monsters both within and without...”
If there was any good thing to come from AudioGO’s demise (and ‘good’ is the wrong label to lose), then it was that timing led to the audiobook of Full Circle getting a release around the same time Mistfall was released by Big Finish (and frankly a novelisation-reading getting a fortuitous new release date is no compensation for everyone who lost their livelihood due to the company’s collapse).
Regardless though, the two releases fit snugly together as far from being a sequel to the televised version of Full Circle (though, erm, it is), Mistfall is really a follow-up to Andrew Smith’s own novelisation of his one and only television outing. To quote myself (because no other bugger is ever going to) from my review of the novelisation in the fanzine Whotopia, Full Circle is:
A really rather lovely novelisation written by the young Andrew Smith from his own scripts. What makes it such a winner is not so much the story, which is fine, but the obvious care and delicacy which has gone into writing this novelisation, with plenty of time given to delving into the Doctor’s thoughts and giving characters […] a depth which shows us a real desire to make this story the very best it can be. There’s an almost tangible adoration– love, even– in this book, which grabbed and enthused me, even if the story isn’t the greatest ever told.
I hope you’ll forgive me for being indulgent and quoting myself as these same thoughts popped into my head upon listening to Mistfall: the greatest story ever told? No. One which Smith is clearly enjoying writing? Yes! And not only that, one which makes good use of Doctor Who lore, most specifically Adric. He may not be around, but his presence is felt, dragging people into E-Space and leaving a solemn shadow over people once it’s clear just where the TARDIS has landed. Even the music feels indebted to Season Eighteen and the artful dodger that almost never artfully dodged.
Mistfall cracks along at a fair pace, clocking in as one of the shortest plays Big Finish have given us as part of the monthly range for a long time now, and whilst a lot of it focuses on people being a bit cranky in a spaceship, it also moves on the mythos of Mistfall and the Marshmen nicely, showing that Smith has a really solid idea of where his creations should have gone and of the world he devised back in the 1980s.
Whether returning to E-Space will prove to be anything more than a novelty for this current arc remains to be seen, but it works well enough here and it’s true to say that without it, this story could not have happened. The ending also suggests a tighter continuation from story to story than we’ve seen for a while, so perhaps the setting will be fully justified across the next two releases.
I’m still not 100% sure on how I feel about Nyssa’s presence here after the events of Prisoners of Fate— for someone deeply regretting what they’ve done to their son, she hopped back on board the TARDIS fairly quickly, leaving him forever abandoned if the conclusion to that play is anything to go by. It doesn’t feel very true to the character at all, but colour me at least intrigued as to how this trilogy is going to approach this.
Overall, Mistfall is not the best play I have ever heard, but it’s fair enough and a decent start to the year’s releases, and as always, it’s lovely to hear what Andrew Smith has to offer.
Finally, a word on the cover art. It’s not secret that I personally know Will Brooks, diarist for this very website and co-writer of a book with me, but I did want to, from a neutral, appreciative standpoint, highlight the frankly gorgeous cover for this play which he has designed. It’s the first since 1963: Fanfare for the Common Men to really grab my attention, and makes a very nice change in pace to the usual one-alien-and-a-handful-of-generic-headshots approach which has dogged many releases lately, promising a return to more experimental and/or arresting covers such as that for Phantoms of the Deep, and indeed many of that series of Fourth Doctor Adventures before they returned to the (in my opinion) disappointingly repetitive Photoshop affairs. The cover for next month’s E-Space adventure, Equilibrium, is equally pretty, so touch wood for even more from Brooks in the future. (He can pay me for the good vibes later.)