Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions
Writer: Nicholas Briggs
RRP: £10.99 (CD) / £8.99 (Download)
Release Date: July 2015
Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online
“There are dark skies on Krelos… and something gigantic is descending.
Meanwhile, the Doctor and Leela set off for some fishing in the mountain pools of Krelos. K9 has interfaced with the TARDIS and has reactivated the architectural configuration from the days of the Doctor’s second incarnation. In passing, the Doctor notes it could do with a good clean. And there’s a familiar piece of material snagged on the console.
Far up the mountain, an aged explorer is in trouble. Will the Doctor and Leela be able to save him and his planet? And what is it that K9 has discovered in the TARDIS?”
The Doctor gets up to an awful lot of things when we’re not looking. We know this from various sources: the Doctor himself, glimpses of downtime in stories such as Midnight, The Romans, Army of Ghosts and Turn Left (it all goes to pot there, but to start with at least, Donna and the Doctor are just having fun exploring an alien market), companions reciting stories not seen on screen (Rose in Boom Town, for example), and the nagging sense that it can’t all be continual peril for the Doctor and his friends, or you wouldn’t go travelling, would you? There are definitely times when the Doctor and his entourage take a break and simply have a good time.
Why, then, have we not seen this in full before? The argument will no doubt be that if nothing much happens, then it’s not going to be the most exciting of tales, but as if that were a gauntlet thrown on the table, Big Finish have decided to try and prove us wrong and The Fate of Krelos is the result.
What happens in this story, then? Well, Leela and the Doctor wander around the TARDIS for a bit and decide to go fishing whilst K-9 is on the blink. They meet the locals and have a jolly. And that’s it.
It’s a strange tale in that the format actively fights against the story being told. We need a cliffhanger midway through the tale, one at the end, and a healthy dose of leading-into-the-final-play-this-series-style plot for Return to Telos to work properly. Because Nicholas Briggs, the story’s author, wants to tell a tale where the Doctor and Leela just relax instead of rush around, there is an inherent wrestle between these necessities and Briggs’s desires. So, K-9 is not how he should be but everyone ignores it uncharacteristically because that would kickstart a story. Likewise, we get a truly horrendous and cringeworthy bit of info-dumping early on where Leela learns about Jamie purely so that she will know who he is come the final play this series. It’s a scene that exists purely to push things forward and stands out all the more than it usually would, such is the lax pace and absence of event surrounding it all.
Things suddenly whirl into action right at the end, again because it is needed by the demands of both Doctor Who as a series and The Fate of Krelos’s position in the running order of this season of adventures. Maybe placed somewhere else other than the penultimate adventure, a tale like this one could have worked, but as it is, we have what would struggle to fit a standard twenty-three-minute-long episode stretched beyond breaking point.
In spite of all this though,I cannot help but admire Briggs for giving this a shot in the first place. Does it work? Not really, but as a one-off experiment, it is at least worthy of merit. The use of Michael Cochrane in the guest cast is a nice touch, too, giving The Fourth Doctor Adventures a sense of continuity with its past (he was brilliant as Colonel Spindleton in the first series) in much the same way that repeated appearances of Bernard Horsfall and his ilk used to do on screen.
Telos beckons now, so hopefully this is but a blip in what has been the best series of adventures for the Fourth Doctor from Big Finish so far. At least Leela knows who Jamie is now…