24 May 2012

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Alan Barnes

RRP: £10.99

Release Date: 31st May 2012

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 24th May 2012

Derbyshire in the year 1979. The Doctor and Leela arrive in the middle of a hunt for a missing girl.

Confronted by suspicious locals and the retired though rather unhinged Colonel Spindelton, the travellers begin to discover that everyone is living in fear of an ancient legend from the time of the Romans. It tells of a great White Worm, living in the Dark Peak Gap surfacing only for the flesh of animals or children.

Since the Derbyshire countryside is rife with trails of mysterious slime and missing people, all evidence suggests that the Worm is much more than a mere legend.

The Doctor begins his investigation of the strange events but he is not the only Time Lord interested in the White Worm. This Time Lord has been waiting and planning for a long time and the Worm is essential to his schemes. The Doctor is about to confront an ancient evil and a very old nemesis. 

Trail of the White Worm is not only a love letter to Bram Stoker and the Hammer Horror influences of the Philip Hinchcliffe era, but the return of The Master to Big Finish.

It is no secret that the character was coming back and the weight of expectation to see Geoffrey Beevers return to the role opposite Tom Baker was huge. The last time these two actors met as their characters was Baker’s penultimate story The Keeper of Traken, so it is a little disappointing that this adventure is not as strong as one would hope.

Having said that when The Master is present Beevers’ performance is sublime; dripping with menace, charm and a gleefully sadistic nature. When The Doctor and The Master finally confront one another it is tantalisingly brief but promises great moments to come in the next story.

Trail of the White Worm is a standalone adventure which concludes as a direct set up for the finale of the first Fourth Doctor season. It is only towards the end of part two that we see the story setting up the next act and this rather hurts it, as, upon reflection, the story begins to feel a little rushed. This is a shame as the concept and ideas on display here are so good.

As soon as The Doctor and Leela arrive we head straight into the adventure, and the marvellously mysterious characters that are set up either have their motivations exposed quickly or are dispatched just as fast. This is more evident in the supporting characters such as the wonderfully mad Colonel Spindelton and the rather enigmatic Demesne Furze. Spindelton’s motivations are explained but his reasoning for siding with The Master seems rather fickle but then again people have done far worse things for the most selfish of excuses. Furze, a character we eventually learn is crucial not only to this story but in helping to spark the beginning of the next one comes perilously close to being merely a plot device by the end. This is in no way a reflection on the cast as everyone is on top form.

Tom Baker and Louise Jameson continue the wonderful rapport they have built throughout this season and once again prove that age and time are no barriers to them returning to these classic parts. Michael Cochrane is fantastic as the barking mad Spindelton and Rachel Stirling creates a real sense of mystery in her portrayal as Furze which elevates her character from becoming too much of a device to simply get the story going. 

Trail of the White Worm feels like it should have been a much longer and darker tale than what we have here, but despite its flaws it is still very entertaining, but you cannot escape the feeling that this story is merely a stepping stone to a much larger one.

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