Big Finish, CD £10.99, download £8.99
Reviewed by Chris Limb
“You’re looking well… Putrescence has cleared up nicely!”
Arriving in the DarkPeak in Derbyshire in 1979, the Doctor and Leela stumble feet first into the middle of a frantic search for a girl who’s gone missing. The panicky locals fear that the You Know What, a legendary Great White Worm that has haunted the area since Roman times, stealing cattle and terrorising the populace, has taken her. The Doctor isn’t so sure. Whilst the worm itself may turn out to be very real, there is something else at work here and it comes as no surprise when he discovers that some of the strings are being pulled by the decaying hands of his old nemesis the Master.
Considering the multiple experiences of both his predecessor and successor, the Fourth Doctor only encountered his archenemy and fellow Time Lord the Master on two occasions on screen (The Deadly Assassin and The Keeper of Traken/Logopolis). Big Finish here redress the balance, giving the two old rivals another chance to lock horns.
Barnes’s plot does what Doctor Who always did well on-screen – taking a pre-existing myth or legend and building a science fiction plot around it. In this case the story adapted is the legend of the Lambton Worm, a colourful piece of folklore from the north east of England which it cleverly combines with the thought that if there are wormholes in space what must the worms be like? The Master’s attempted use of the worm to further his own ends is very much within the character’s traditional modus operandi and as such feels true to form, with the listener genuinely being given cause to wonder whether the Doctor will manage to save the day this time…
The standout performance here is Geoffrey Beevers’s Master. Only having had the opportunity to play the “Doctor’s Moriarty” once on screen (in The Keeper of Traken), Beevers is obviously relishing his return to the role, his voice exuding a silken eloquent malevolence far more frightening than any amount of ranting and raving might have been. He is well matched here by Tom Baker and on this occasion their sparring has more of a humorous tone about it than people may be used to, which makes a refreshing change.
Other characters worthy of note here are from the upper classes of DarkPeak society – Rachael Stirling’s batty eccentric Demesne Furze and Michael Cochrane’s blustering Colonel Spindleton, both of whom have far more to them than first meet the ear…