24 December 2011

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Christopher Bailey and Marc Platt

RRP: £14.99

Release Date: 31st December 2011

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 24th December 2011

Christopher Bailey is a writer well-regarded by Doctor Who fans and Kinda is one of most popular stories in the show’s history. This is extraordinary considering only two of Bailey’s stories reached broadcast, the last being Kinda’s sequel, Snakedance. Bailey did have two other scripts that went under consideration by the BBC that were eventually rejected. The first was May Time and the other, The Children of Seth. The rejection of both stories drove Bailey away from a career in television and back into a life of academia. 

Bailey’s thoughtful and complex stories have stood out to fans and have grown in reputation over the years, even gaining a DVD boxset to those stories alone earlier this year. So it is with high expectations that Big Finish, with Marc Platt’s adaptation, bring to completion Bailey’s missing work to close this season of Fifth Doctor lost stories. 

The story begins when an experiment of Nyssa’s brings up a message on the TARDIS’ temporal scanner. It is simply one word “Idra”. The Doctor is intrigued enough to set a course for the origin of the signal, the Archipelago of Sirius.

Whilst there, Nyssa, Tegan and the Doctor discover a society on the brink of war, as the mighty Autarch is due to announce a new campaign against the enemy of his people: Seth, the Prince of the Dark. It soon becomes clear, that all is not as it seems, for deep in the court lies treachery and something unexpected and sinister building in power. Will the TARDIS crew discover the mystery at the heart of Sirius and just what is on the dreaded Level 14?

The Children of Seth is not an easy listen. This is to the play’s credit, however. The story is complex, and provides many questions and multiple plot strands. This is not a story that you can idly dip in and out of as it requires nothing less than your full attention. The story is not hard to follow at all, but its complexity only serves to enrich the listening experience. Since this play derives from a Christopher Bailey story it is hardly a surprise. Marc Platt is to be commended for bringing Bailey’s ideas to life, and adding his own distinctive touches to the final work.

There are some great performances here, particularly Adrian Lukis as the villain of the piece, Lord Byzan. This is a wonderfully power hungry character, driven to destroy any threat no matter how small from achieving his goals. It is one of the highlights of the play, which includes even more great performances from Honor Blackman as Anahita and Vernon Dobtcheff as Shemur.

However not all the cast is well served by the story. David Warner, who plays the role of Siris, the Autarch, is in very little of the play, and only comes to the foreground toward the end. In the handful of scenes he is in, the character merely becomes a senile leader, completely overwhelmed by the events that are occurring around him. It is a little bit of a waste for an actor of his talent, but for the time he is there, Warner’s presence is a welcome one.

Poor Sarah Sutton is once again, as has been common in this trilogy, relegated to the sidelines, allowing Janet Fielding to come out in front. Tegan is well served by this story, and Fielding’s great performance makes up for the lack of Nyssa. It would be nice to see more of these two companions together in future stories, as the moments when they are together are great fun to listen to. 

It is difficult to review The Children of Seth without giving too much away and I have to say that not everything about the play works, but it is a slow and rewarding play and I believe those rewards will increase on repeated listens.

This trilogy of lost stories has revealed a definite linking theme. These are stories about hierarchies and societies perilously close to collapse from the corruption of morals and ideals from within. Each story presents a leader of people, unaware of the chaos that will soon erupt and when it does it is disastrous for all concerned.  It would have been interesting to see if this story had made it to television, as it is certainly one of the most interesting, surreal and thoughtful Doctor Who lost stories I’ve experienced.

The Children of Seth is certainly not for a casual listener if such a thing exists. It requires much more of you, and although not perfect, it is certainly a recommended conclusion to a thought provoking trilogy.

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