Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Doctor Who: Prisoners of Fate (June 2013) Review

Big Finish June 2013 Release
Doctor Who Main Range 174
Prisoners of Fate

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Sarah Dougles (Sibor), Alistair Mackenzie (Galen), Anjella Mackintosh (Mahandra), Jez Fielder (Kartis)

Written by: Jonathan Morris
Directed by: Ken Bentley

Reviewed by James Bullen for The Gallifrey Times.

This review may contain spoilers.

These past three months have seen three brand new audio adventures featuring the Fifth Doctor’s tantalising team of Tegan, Turlough and Nyssa, a sensational squad that unfortunately had little screen time during their stint in the eighties.  Therefore Big Finish have gifted us with more exploration of these wonderful companions, starting with Turlough in April with a revisitation of an old enemy (‘Eldrad Must Die’), progressing into May’s release focussing on ‘the mouth on legs’, Tegan, in a historic romp (‘The Lady of Mercia’). Ergo, finishing this month’s Fifth Doctor audio adventures has been Nyssa of Trakken, with ‘Prisoners of Fate’.

This story relishes in Big Finish’s own rich backstory it has created for Nyssa (a treat for fans used to her screen time, more on that later), set on the planet of Valedron, Nyssa’s son is trying to crack the cure for Richter’s syndrome, a illness that has plagued the galaxy since Nyssa abandoned it and her family twenty five years ago. When the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough then land on Valedron, a heartfelt reunion is in order, along with a mysterious artefact returning with a vengeance from the Doctors long past.

The audio starts from the perspective of Nyssa’s son, Adric, this is a sweet addition to the story, I am unsure whether Big Finish have tackled Nyssa’s son before, but his name being Adric adds a more emotional layer to Nyssa’s character and shows how Adric, the mathematical genius, and his ultimate death was important to her, a shamefully unexplored aspect of the show during the 1980’s. This is what is the ultimate success of the whole audio adventure and big finish in general (most notable among fandom with the Sixth Doctor), that being salvaging characters and giving them the added depth and stories they deserve, for the actors and the characters. The added depth in this story, as stated before, is with Nyssa, Sarah Sutton contributes a wonderful performance in the audio, particularly during the reunion of her son and the numerous personal and emotional decisions she has to make as Nyssa. Sarah Sutton accomplishes a rare gift in the audio, through a mix of sensational writing from Jonathan Morris and Suttons own acting flair, she outperforms Peter Davison.

The story itself has the correct amount of emotional character beats as well as interesting science fiction idea’s. The story is unafraid to take challenging and ambitious ideas altering the canon and going with them, such as the device the citizens have been using actually being the Doctor’s original type 50 TARDIS when young back on Gallifrey. The concept that the Doctor had a TARDIS prior to his adventures with the type 40 is an interesting one and adds another coat (thankfully not multi-coloured) of backstory to the Doctors intriguing past. The type 50 impersonating Tegan and Turlough’s personalities, aids Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson with something to do, for one aspect the audio fails on is in the second two parts Tegan and Turlough are seemingly just spare parts in the adventure, this is fine but a bit disappointing seen as how they have all been utilised in the past.

Overall, this audio is a fantastic example of how Big Finish have created a totally new backstory and improved these characters, whilst not alienating new listeners. The interesting scientific ideas and complexities of the paradoxes and the revelation of the Doctors original Tardis could be two separate stories in their own right but Jonathan Morris artfully gels them together and makes them almost uninteresting in-conjunction to the emotional and heartfelt character moments with Nyssa. Unfortunately Tegan and Turlough somehow get lost in the second half, they have been utilised brilliantly in the past, rendering slight disappointment. However this is redeemed with the brilliantly performed emotional moments handled by Sarah Sutton and Alistair Mackenzie (who voices Adric, Nyssa’s son). The mix of talented vocal performances and a script with emotional warmth proves for a fantastic listen.

The Gallifrey Times Rating: 9/10
Many thanks to Big Finish Productions for providing the audio for review.
Picture courtesy of Big Finish.