Big Finish, CD £14.99, download £12.99, http://bigfinish.com
Reviewed by Chris Limb
“Reunited for less than an hour and already bickering…”
Calcutta, 1926. The Doctor is determined to watch “possibly the greatest match of the greatest tour in the history of cricket” whether his companions Tegan, Turlough and Nyssa like it or not. Unfortunately no sooner have they arrived than a man infected with rabies bites Nyssa and the only hope of a cure, the TARDIS medical kit, is unreachable due to the Doctor’s blue box having been accidentally loaded onto the private train now pulling out of the station. A chase by Rolls Royce and balloon leads the travellers into a lost world deep in the jungle, inhabited by bizarre chimeras and overseen by the bright green all-seeing eyes of the mythical Emerald Tiger…
Back in the 1980s the TV production team liked to link each story to the next one quite closely – whilst this gave contemporary viewers a nice sense of continuity it does make it difficult to find gaps into which to slot any additional stories later on. Despite the popularity of this Overcrowded TARDIS Team, Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) and Turlough (Mark Strickson) only shared two adventures on screen and such was the nature of the story arc in which they crossed paths that Big Finish had to come up with an ingenious way of reuniting them both with each other and with the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) and Tegan (Janet Fielding). This works surprisingly well and the pleasure of hearing the four leads sparking off each other and arguing as if they’d never been away is well worth it.
The story itself is a wonderful recreation of a bygone era – not so much the reality of the 1920s India (despite a pointed comment by the Doctor about Neil Stacy’s unpleasant Major Haggard being a walking embodiment of everything that would bring down the British Raj) but more the imagined fictional subcontinent of the works of Kipling and Burroughs. There is also an element of homage to the classic adventure movie serials of the day – the climax of episode two is straight out of the Saturday morning genre that gave us the cliff-hanger and was such an influence on Doctor Who itself when the show started in the 1960s.
The supporting cast are first class – in particular Cheri Lunghi gives a convincing and sympathetic performance as Lady Adela Forster, a wealthy memsahib with a dark secret and Vineeta Rishi’s were-tiger Dawon is a haunting presence from the moment we first encounter her.
What is particularly satisfying about The Emerald Tiger is its mystical fairy tale atmosphere. Although there is a pseudo-scientific explanation bolted on near the end it is not necessarily needed – the Doctor’s encounters with the paranormal and weird seem just as perfectly in place within the show’s universe as his encounters with the Daleks and for the bulk of the story we are simply swept along with the magic and spectacle.