23 October 2019

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Carl Rowens & Martyn Waites

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: October 2019

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online


Interstitial by Carl Rowens

"When the TARDIS is drawn off-course by temporal disruption, the Doctor and his companions discover a research facility conducting dangerous experiments. But how do you fight the future when time itself is being used as a weapon?"

Feast of Fear by Martyn Waites

"At the height of the Irish famine, a carnival travels the country bringing cheer to all they encounter. But it also brings something else along with them… and it already has the Doctor."

Doctor Who has not been shy of (at times) cribbing from its own past; be it with cast members (here's looking at you, Michael Wisher), titles (The Mutants does have a nice ring about it) or plots (Planet of the Daleks feels very familiar for a reason, after all).

Likewise, Big Finish have certainly never been shy about plundering the past. We've recently had an entire trilogy featuring one-shot character Mags, two outings across two ranges for the same trio of Masters and a Missy, giant maggots pestering Torchwood, and more besides. This trilogy is bookended by a guest star from Big Finish's own original series, and a story with the 1980s Cybermen. Here in the middle, we've two stories with rather familiar beats.

We begin with Interstitial by new writer Carl Rowens. The title conjures up memories of The Time Monster, experiments with time doing likewise, but what we get instead is a fairly generic sci-fi story of differing timelines and the responsibility one has if one can alter events. (That's not a criticism, just an observation.)

The story justifies its two-episode length, not outstaying its welcome and using a small cast well, even if the guest cast are largely familiar tropes with dialogue.

Having joined the TARDIS team in the previous adventure, with hints of a sad ending, Marc is all wide-eyed innocence, a traveller from the past flung into the future, and Rowens gets to toy with his fate at times. I'm not sure how Marc is going to play out yet: confusion and enthusiasm with a dash of bravery are all well and good, but I feel we've seen this before and he will need something more to really grab our affection.

The ending of Interstitial feels rather quick after the gentle pace across the rest of the tale, but all in all this one is not bad. It even manages to take one of my pet hates (people on screen or in audio reading aloud letters whilst writing them) and give it an amusing pay-off when Nyssa signs it off. Hats off to it.

* * * * *

Next up is Feast of Fear by Martyn Waites, another new author. It's always good to see new names in this range, so having two in this release is something to be praised.

Feast of Fear is an odd one though. We sadly begin things with two characters spouting exposition at one another as they run, which made my heart sink and attention wander: there are ways of filling in characters' backgrounds organically and this isn't it.

As for the play itself, you'll be forgiven for thinking you've heard this one before. A circus taken over by a malevolent evil from outer space? I guess any story set around a circus or carnival was going to invoke comparison with The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, but the way around this is surely to do something radically different? As it stands, it just makes it feel like the well is running dry.

Elsewhere, things feel very in tune with Doctor Who in its post-2005 guise. Love saving the day and people able to break conditioning through memories and friendship? Closing Time and The Rings of Akhaten spring to mind.

This makes the play feel derivative. Heck, even a plot thread about the Doctor unable to stop talking has strong echoes of Tell Me You Love Me from Big Finish's (underrated) Class plays.

In some ways, Feast of Fear feels like the most Chibnall-era play we've had so far, with a (very) lengthy justification by the Doctor before taking any action against the monster and an emphasis time and again on friendships and relationships. Even plundering stories from the past is in keeping, seeing as Chibnall has riffed on Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Green Death on screen rather heavily in two of his tales.

It doesn't make for a wholly successful play here, though, if you know the show's past, and let's be honest, most people listening to these plays do. Big Finish are even doing a prequel to Greatest Show in this very range, so I am left scratching my head at the approach taken here.

This release is a story of two halves in more than one respect, then. It boasts one of the best covers Big Finish have given us for years, throws two new authorial voices into the fray, and stumbles as often as it succeeds.

I think on balance that I am okay with this. This release is not going to get a huge score from me, but at least it's attempting to do something vaguely different, albeit by treading a well-beaten path. Perhaps the future will see more success down this route.


+ Interstitial / Feast of Fear is OUT NOW, priced £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title on Amazon!


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