Night of the Stormcrow, by Marc Platt
King of Sontar, by John Dorney
White Ghosts, by Alan Barnes
The Crooked Man, by John Dorney
The Evil One, by Nicholas Briggs
I had never got round to writing up Night of the Stormcrow, a Fourth Doctor/Leela special release from Big Finish back in December 2012, so I listened to it again recently. Marc Platt is usually a clear hit or clear miss for me (in fact, normally a clear hit) so I have to say I was a little disappointed – it’s the story of an observatory where a strange entity shifts from object of scrutiny to horrible intrusive destroyer, and there are a couple of standout scenes (both with Louise Jameson) and some good one-liners from Tom Baker, but I felt the plot slightly lost its way in the second half. Chase Masterson makes her first Whoniverse appearance as a manipulative academic.
Big Finish went for over a decade without doing a Sontaran story, finally breaking in with Heroes of Sontar in 2011; they have succeeded in actually doing interesting things with the Sontarans much more than the TV show ever did before the arrival of Strax. Here, the Doctor and Leela are faced with a super-Sontaran warrior, played by Dan Starkey, Strax himself, and again Louise Jameson pulls off a great performance with some actual character development for Leela, and some very interesting shout-outs to the Doctor’s past. A good start to the 2014 season of Fourth Doctor stories.
Alan Barnes is one of those writers who has contributed a lot to non-TV Who (editor of DWM at the start of the century, writer of various comic strips, a dozen audios and the animated TV story The Infinite Quest), and it’s a bit surprising that he’s never appeared as a writer for the programme itself. White Ghosts is as usual good stuff, with a base under siege from some really scary carnivorous plants (and doing carnivorous plants in an audio play is impressive in itself), a plot that is much more complex than it first appears, and some more brilliant moments for the Doctor/Leela relationship. Barnes on form again. Virginia Hey, who I hadn’t heard of but was a regular in Farscape, guests.
The Crooked Man is an awfully good horror-type story: strange murders in a English seaside town, an ideal husband who is perhaps a little too ideal, works of literature where fictions becomes fact, two excellent guest performances from Neil Stuke as the eponymous Crooked Man and Sarah Smart (who was one of the Also People on TV) as effectvely a one-off companion. I was listening to this in the supermarket and found it impossible to concentrate on the shopping. I would recommend this story in particular to anyone wanting to try the Fourth Doctor audios; it works well as a stand-alone and gives a good flavour. The one downside is that it has a bit less Leela than the others.
Whereas The Evil One is all about Leela, starting with a flashback to the death of her father, and then bringing her into close contact with the Master played here by Geoffrey Beevers; Michael Keating also makes a guest appearance, in a role so different from Vila that I didn’t recognise his voice. When we first met her on New Year’s Day 1977, Leela addressed the Doctor as the Evil One; the appearance of the Master in this story gives us another possible interpretation of the title; but in fact the Evil One here turns out to be someone I did not expect. Once again brilliant stuff from all, particularly Louise Jameson. This season of Fourth Doctor stories has turned out pretty well; two more to go