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21 September 2011

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Emma Beeby & Gordon Rennie

RRP: £14.99

Release Date: 30th September 2011

Reviewed by: Matthew Davis for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 21st September 2011

The Doctor meets Nostradamus; already a fascinating idea which forms the central starting point for this second release for the Seventh Doctor in the main Big Finish range.

Florence in the 16th Century. As the city runs about its normal business, the people are in intrigued and puzzled by the prophecies of the local seer Michel de Nostradame, for he has predicted the end of the world; An end that will come, when ships sail in the sky, bringing monsters from the heavens to unleash fire upon the world. So when the doomsday quatrain starts to come true no-one is more surprised than The Doctor, after all he has seen the end of the world, and it certainly shouldn’t be happening now.

Throwing the seventh Doctor together with the famously celebrated and debunked seer Nostradamus, should make for a delicious cocktail of a story, but what we get is something quite unexpected.

We begin with what seems like a standard historical romp, as the Doctor finds himself in Florence and for the first two parts we get a pretty standard run of mill history meets sci-fi run-around. When the big twist in the story comes at the end of part two, it is an intriguing but rather a small let down.

Essentially, what we thought was Florence is really an artificial reality, and from here on in the setting becomes unimportant effectively rendering Nostradamus and his world to mere window dressing for the rest of the story.

The play does deal with some interesting ideas from a result of the twist, and it stops the story from becoming too dull but, without giving too much away, the ideas themselves are strong enough on their own, that the story doesn’t really need Nostradamus in it. Sadly the mixing of both these plot lines have a detrimental effect on one another, as neither is explored in as much depth as you would hope.

The main antagonists of the piece, the crocodilian Crowe are a rather dull villain. Though they have a rather enjoyably nasty way of progressing through their chain of command, they are in effect useless and not much of a threat.

The other alien presence, the highly evolved Poldigon’s, two of which are voiced very well by John Banks and Caroline Keiff, turn out to be as much of a mystery as the Doctor says they are, and quite why they are building planet size facilities to create realities out of raw liquid material for paying clients is anyone’s guess. Again there is a wealth of ideas here, most of which are sadly glossed over or unexplored entirely.

However one of the things there is to enjoy here is a passionate and grand performance from David Schofield as Nostradamus, who finds himself at one point playing companion to Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor. McCoy himself is having a wonderful time here. As Robophobia showed brilliantly, the Seventh Doctor is at his most compelling when he has no familiar companion around him and McCoy puts in a fun performance despite the madness of the plot. It is a pity that not much more was made of the meeting of the Doctor and Nostradamus, as the potential for the butting of ideologies between the two would’ve elevated this story somewhat.

The Doomsday Quatrain is not a bad play, nor is it a strong one - there is enough to enjoy, but one cannot help feeling that the overall story was an opportunity missed.

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