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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Lost Stories
Mission to Magnus


Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 445 0
Available 31 December 2009

The Doctor and Peri face enemies at every turn on the planet Magnus. There’s the Time Lord bully Anzor, who made the Doctor’s life a living hell during his time at the Academy. There’s also Rana Zandusia, the matriarchal ruler of the planet, who seeks to prise the secret of time travel from one of these alien visitors. Also on Magnus is the slug-like Sil, still bitter from his defeat on the planet Varos and seeking to make his fortune from the most potentially destructive ends. And, deep within the planet, there is something else - another old enemy of the Doctor’s. The future is looking decidedly colder...

In common with The Nightmare Fair, Mission to Magnus was written for the unmade Season 23, and has only previously seen the light of day as a novelisation, in Target’s Missing Episodes series.

Like The Nightmare Fair, the work is very much of its time (the mid-1980s), as the interviewees in the CD extras at the end of each disc are at pains to point out. The depiction of Magnus’s female-dominated society feels even more dated than the similarly themed Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Angel One. Any claims that this script is embracing feminism or sexual equality are undermined by pig-headed remarks made by male off-worlders such as the Time Lord Anzor (“Isn’t there a man I can talk to?”) and Ishka, from the neighbouring planet Salvak (“Stop acting like a silly woman!”). Perhaps the only palatable way to view such characterisation is to regard the planets as symbolising a couple in archetypical romantic fiction: he (represented by the men of Salvak) dislikes and distrusts her (the women of Magnus), just as she dislikes and distrusts him, but when they meet...

As with The Nightmare Fair, there is some impressive doubling up in order to accommodate the larger-than-usual cast of characters. Nicholas Briggs plays Ishka and the Ice Warriors Brorg, Vedikael and the Grand Marshall, while James George plays fellow Salvakian Hussa as well as additional Ice Warriors Skaarg and Jarga. Thanks to the actors’ versatile vocal ranges, the Ice Warriors are brought to life far more effectively than they were in the novelisation.

Unlike The Nightmare Fair, this story’s original author, Philip Martin, is still around to adapt it for audio - something that he achieves remarkably well given the amount of visual action he has to convey.

And whereas Michael Gough was unable to reprise his role as the Celestial Toymaker in The Nightmare Fair, great Morgo be praised that Sil is played once again by the inimitable Nabil Shaban. Sil’s presence is slightly problematic, because in Mindwarp the Doctor, Peri and Sil refer directly back to the events of Vengeance on Varos rather than to this story. In other respects, though, Mission to Magnus paves the way for Mindwarp, containing references to Sil’s leader Kiv and his deity Morgo, and establishing Sil as a cowardly turncoat, a role the Doctor temporarily adopts in Mindwarp.

Sil dominates the proceedings in Part One, which barely features the Ice Warriors at all. However, he, Anzor (Malcolm Rennie) and Zandusia (Maggie Steed) are sidelined for much of Part Two, to make way for more Ice Warrior action.

The other lost story to be novelised was The Ultimate Evil. However, Big Finish will not be adapting that adventure, as the company was unable to reach an agreement with its author, Wally K Daly. Perhaps that’s just as well, because The Ultimate Evil contains some unfortunate similarities to Mission to Magnus: a repulsive, diminutive alien motivated by profit (in this case Mordant) and the threat of global war (in this case between the continents of Tranquela and Ameliora).

Despite its flaws, Mission to Magnus has made a more successful transition to audio than The Nightmare Fair. Mission accomplished.


Richard McGinlay

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