25 May 2019

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Emma Reeves

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: May 2019

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online


"The Doctor has returned Mags, formerly of the Psychic Circus, to her native world: Vulpana.

Not the savage Vulpana that Mags was taken from, but Vulpana in an earlier era. The Golden Millennium – when the Four Great Wolf Packs, each devoted to one of the planet’s four moons, oversaw the height of Vulpanan civilisation. A time when the noblest families of the Vulpanan aristocracy found themselves in need of new blood…

A golden age that’s about to come to a violent end!"

I noted at the start of my The Monsters Of Gokroth review that Big Finish seem to be tailoring their output for a very small and specific audience right now, and went on to question exactly what fans were dying to hear more tales about Mags and what stories could be told with her. This month sees the release of The Moons Of Vulpana and it goes some way to answering the latter question, but not always in a positive way. 

By returning to Vulpana, Mags’s home planet, we get a good chance to do some world building and add some background details. This is a welcome development and I could start to see the potential in the character and why some fans may have been clamouring for further adventures.  I’m not of the mindset where I hear a throwaway line and want to see it filled out: we’ve learnt from things like the Star Wars prequels or Big Finish’s own The War Doctor box sets that this is often not a good thing. Still, there are blanks that can be filled here should writers wish to, and so it is here. I hope that the fistful of fans who crave this sort of thing are enjoying the ride.

 

The problem really is not the mindset but the execution here. Yes, we get to visit Vulpana but what we get for those filled-in blanks is nothing original or especially engaging.  We land on a planet with pseudo-medieval trappings and Mags finds herself wooed by two werewolves. Before too long, she has met their haughty mother and their surly, outsider brother who feels isolated and unsure they should be celebrating the past after all, going against the grain of the planet. But despite Mags feeling at home here, perhaps all is not what it seems… to which I found myself saying, “Well, no, of course it isn’t going to be, is it?” because I feel like I have heard this story before. Many, many times. I kept waiting to be surprised, but nothing felt out of the ordinary. Even larger plot points later on lacked the impact they ought to have.

 

Throw in a repetitive musical motif that has outstayed its welcome before the opening episode is through (it makes that fanfare used in Rosa feel positively underused), and you’ve one of the most disappointingly average releases for a while.

 

All of the above elements contribute towards the creation of a play that is competent, but that’s about the most positive thing I can say about it. The script is functional and the performances not bad, but nothing here grabbed me because nothing here is new. I’m not sure it’s a fault with the writing. Emma Reeves has done great work elsewhere, with her Unbound play The Emporium At The End being one of the wittiest and joyful releases Big Finish have done this past decade. It’s not a fault with the acting either. The guest cast fails to shine, mind, but that’s not their fault: they can do only so much. As for Mags, Jessica Martin is really trying her best with what she has. It’s just that the character lacks true dimension and depth and I think the relatively uninspired feel of The Moons Of Vulpana is but a reaction to this.

 

Even this review feels underbaked and brief, but that’s because there is almost nothing to say beyond that which has been stated already. It doesn’t makes me especially hopeful for the conclusion to this trilogy, but you never know. Miracles happen and how blissfully Doctor Who-like it would be to save it all at the eleventh hour. Here’s hoping.

 


+ The Moons Of Vulpana is OUT NOW, priced £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title on Amazon!


RSS Feed
News Key
News Home
General
The New Series
The Classic Series
Spinoffs
Merchandise
Site
Blog Entries
Reviews Key
Reviews Home
Books / Magazines
DVD / Blu-ray
Audio
Toys / Other
TV Episodes
Search
Ray Bayly