22 January 2019

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Cavan Scott

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: January 2019

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online


"The TARDIS deposits the Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and their android ally Kamelion aboard a prison ship. A ship with just one prisoner: Nustanu, last warlord of the Zamglitti – monstrous, mind-bending mimics able to turn themselves into mist.

A ship that's in trouble, and about to make a crash-landing...

On a planet of mists."

With Doctor Who having as many stories under its belt as it does, it’s unsurprising that at times the show wishes to celebrate this. Done well, a brief nod or wink to the past can be amusing and encourage people new to the show to dip into the past. Done badly, it can be off-putting, make the series feel like it is tailor-made for a small audience, and give characters the strange habit of not being able to walk five metres without referencing a former adventure.

Big Finish have historically veered between the two, sometimes in the same scene, and their reputation at times can be of pandering too much to the sort of fan who thinks simply name-checking Vardans makes for a good story, no plot required. The trouble with this attitude is that it means genuinely good nods to the past can perhaps be overshadowed: cue Kamelion.

Kamelion is oft-forgotten, not least by the TV series itself. Almost impossible to operate, superfluous to requirements and absent for months on end, the poor android was pretty much done and dusted as soon as he had set foot upon the good ship TARDIS (I’m using the male pronoun here: if it’s good enough for the character’s new voice artist, Jon Culshaw, then it’s good enough for me). There was potential there though: a shape-shifting companion with the ability to have its mind controlled by outside influences!

The trouble is, the two stories in which he appeared (no, I’m not counting Androzani) show this potential off and so one if left to wonder what else there is to be done with the android. Devil In The Mist by Cavan Scott does not really put those fears to rest, but it does show that there is some exploration to be had with the relationship between bot and human, even if it is largely resolved by the end of things. (It also has a lovely cover, which shows off how gorgeous the android’s design was if nothing else.)

The story starts with a very wary Tegan. Kamelion has links far too close to the Master in her eyes and when he is apparently caught tampering with the ship, her fears appear to be confirmed and she sees red. It’s this fractious relationship between the pair (Tegan angry, Kamelion unable to solve this problem) that forms the crux of the emotional heart of this four-part adventure, and adventure is very much the right word. We’ve crashing spaceships, rivers to cross, a jungle to explore, and secrets to happen upon and the running time does tick on nicely enough. Throw in some space hippos (Scott’s own creations, the Harrigain, who have popped up across media now) and ne’er-do-wells and you’ve something that feels like it’s taken a shot of adrenaline before breakfast.

The regular cast are more than up to the game. Mark Strickson remains thoroughly underrated as Turlough and Janet Fielding is as brilliant as ever. Culshaw, meanwhile, fits into Kamelion’s shoes with utter ease. If anyone has been dipping into the Target audiobook range, they’ll know already how soothing and gorgeous his voice can be on the ears and there’s no change here. He could read the phone book and I’d be content.

I mentioned earlier that not much new is really done with Kamelion though, and I stand by that. There is a nice exploration of companion dynamics (Tegan’s slipped confession that she still feels uneasy around Turlough is beautifully done) but does this story really show the need for Kamelion’s return? I’m not sure it does. (I’m also not sure having one of the story’s cliffhangers revolving around a boat accident is in especially great taste given the tragic death of the android’s original operator. I am 100% sure it’s just a nasty co-incidence but even so, I did wince a little.)

Adventure aside, the script itself passes the time nicely but I can’t say it made much of an impression. Think of this as a blockbuster popcorn movie: the sort you watch with half a mind elsewhere whilst grazing and forget much of the plot hours down the line. That’s not a criticism of the genre at all: sometimes that sort of entertainment is necessary and I’d take it over being bored. I definitely wasn’t clock-watching during this outing, but give me a few months and I am not sure I will be able to regale you with many specifics about it.

Kamelion is now due for a further two stories, and I am more curious than anything else. Will we see the potential hitherto untapped? I do not know, but I am confident that they’ll give it a good go. As a starting block Devil In The Mist is not bad, even if it is not an especially convincing argument for a need for more outings for the character. Perhaps with some of the dramatic tension now eased we’ll see what could have been, with a happier Tegan, a busier TARDIS and a calmer Kamelion.

And if you can’t end a review on a terrible Culture Club joke when talking about a creation from the 1980s, when can you?


+ Devil In The Mist is OUT NOW, priced £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title on Amazon!


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