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27 January 2021

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Lizbeth Myles

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: December 2020

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online


"Something haunts the peak of Ben MacDui.

Something with heavy footsteps, striking terror in the hearts of those who sense it. With climbers going missing, retired Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart visits Scotland to investigate.

But when some old friends join his ascent, he worries that they will make things even more dangerous. As the snows blow in, and mists surround them, the Doctor, Ace and the Brigadier will face the Grey Man of the Mountain..."

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers. You have been warned!

I’ve commented recently that right at the very end of the line the monthly range of Doctor Who plays from Big Finish has kicked up a gear. That continues here with The Grey Man of the Mountain.

I listened to this on a cold day in Edinburgh, snow melting into slush and dangerous ice forming on the pavements, and it couldn’t have been more apt. Lizbeth Myles’s story is set in Scotland where something seems to be stalking those who wish to climb Ben Macdui, Scotland’s second highest mountain. Doctor Who has of course dipped into folklore horror before to good effect, and it’s pulled off again here to similar results.

The first thing to highlight with it all is how good Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred are in this one. It’s their most screen-accurate portrayal in a long time.  Maybe it’s because of the presence of the Brigadier in there, adding to a vague air of ‘authenticity’? I couldn’t say.  All I know is that both of them are channeling the same energy they had back in Season 26 throughout and it works wonders. Speaking of the Brigadier, Jon Culshaw is on duty here and I’d say it’s his strongest performance in the role yet. Culshaw is at his best when doing a proper performance and giving an air of Nicholas Courtney’s original, rather than trying to be slavishly accurate, as I feel is sometimes the case in the Third Doctor range. Here though he’s on fire and his warmth for the role, McCoy and Courtney really comes across. Lucy Goldie as Kirsty is likewise very good and puts in a memorable performance with spark and vibrancy.

Myle’s script is worth celebrating, too. I genuinely laughed aloud at the wink about ‘Science leads’, and the reference to Battlefield’s slightly obscure timeframe is fun as well, both good examples of continuity points that aren’t exclusive to fans and don’t swamp proceedings: other writers please take note. Myles has delivered good things before, with Distant Voices for The Twelfth Doctor Chronicles being perhaps my favourite of her audio work, and I dearly hope she does more for Big Finish.  She has a distinctive narrative voice and this script in particular feels well-researched and fresh. The final episode perhaps isn’t quite as strong as the others, but in any tale with a mystery the revelation is often a bit less impressive than the smoke and mirrors leading up to it, so I wouldn’t mark it down for that and it makes good use of the Brigadier and the Doctor’s relationship with and perception of the character. Likewise, if Thaddeus and Niamh feel familiar in terms of their character and story path, it doesn’t matter so much as the script serves them well and the actors likewise.

It’s Kirsty and Ace who really stand out though. Myles has given us one of the most believable relationships between companion and guest star for a while now.  It feels utterly authentic to Ace’s character, especially the ending between them, and makes for one of the most memorable and true pieces of writing we’ve had for ages.

Less successful perhaps is in some of the production. The music and sound design are both very good, atmospheric and enveloping respectively, but this is definitely a play where the remote recording set-up is more notable than elsewhere thanks to telltale pauses that linger just that fraction of a second too long between sentences in an exchange of dialogue. This is especially the case early on with Ace and Kirsty, which is a real pity. I wish a slight tightening in the edit had happened to make it flow a bit better, because once you notice those fleeting fractions, it’s a wee bit hard to un-notice them.

Try to though, because it’s not the fault of the script. This is a good one, make no mistake. I hope Myles returns to the Big Finish fold before too long as it’s authors like her that make misfires elsewhere feel like softer blows.


+ The Grey Man Of The Mountain is OUT NOW, priced £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download).

+ ORDER this title on Amazon!


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