Big Finish, CD £14.99, download £12.99, http://bigfinish.com
Reviewed by Chris Limb
“Humans! Not so much indomitable but exasperating!”
It’s the One Hundred and Sixty First century – returning to Earth after the Solar Flares, the sleepers from Nerva have begun to repopulate the planet with help from their GalSec cousins. However after forty years, their northernmost colony in Loch Lomond come face to mandible with an old enemy. All that stands between them and absorption are the Doctor and his new friend Flip, both of whom have blundered through a transmat from NervaCity…
It was in the episodic nature of the classic Doctor Who TV series to leave threads dangling – just what did happen on Earth after the fourth Doctor saw off both the Wirrn infestation and Sontaran interference during the show’s first story arc back in 1975? It is with this fan pleasing release that some of these questions are answered.
Despite the epic background theme of the re-colonisation of an abandoned Earth the story is surprisingly claustrophobic, taking the familiar base-under-siege trope and giving it a fresh twist - the colonists at Loch Lomond are a small family. The body horror and the imagery of the Wirrn trapped in the frozen lake is particularly vivid and scary and even when the action switches briefly to NervaCity itself the nightmare doesn’t let up.
The transmat – a background detail in the 1975 TV shows – is here given centre stage. The family’s father Roger (Tim Bentinck) is a transmat specialist with secrets of his own and furthermore the technology itself looks as if it may inadvertently facilitate the Wirrn’s attempted takeover of the sparsely populated world.
This is perhaps not the most accessible story for a new listener – some background in-universe knowledge of the show is assumed. The Doctor’s sympathy for the Wirrn, whilst very much in character, seems odd without the knowledge of what happened between them and humanity in Andromeda. However for long term fans of the show it is a treat, with references not only to one of Tom Baker’s most memorable stories The Ark In Space but also to its follow up The Sontaran Experiment via the GalSec accent displayed by Sheer (Dan Starkey).
It’s a shame that some threads aren’t really tied up – where did the Wirrn in the lake come from anyway and how come no one remembers stories of a man called Doctor? However, all in all it’s a wonderfully eerie tale and one that adds nicely to the canon. The relatively new TARDIS team of Colin Baker’s Doctor and Lisa Greenwood’s Flip is developing well here and it puts a fresh spin on the traditional Doctor/companion relationship when more than once they are mistaken for father and daughter.