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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who


Starring: Peter Davison
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 445 7
Release Date: 31 January 2015

Drawn off course, the TARDIS passes through a CVE into a closed universe – a hugely improbable event with a tragically obvious cause. In order to escape inescapable E-Space, the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough are forced to venture into the wilds of the planet Alzarius. But they’re not the only unwanted visitors to this strange world. A Starliner has landed, captained by Decider Merrion – but why would Merrion risk rousing the monsters in the marshes? Mistfall is coming. The Marshmen are coming. But while Nyssa and Turlough find themselves caught in the open, the Doctor and Tegan discover that the supposedly secure Starliner affords them no protection from monsters both within and without...

There’s been quite a rash of sequels from this range just lately, which I might have grown tired of by now… were it not for the fact that Full Circle happens to be one of my favourite stories! Writer Andrew Smith’s plot and ecological theme, Paddy Kingland’s evocative music and Peter Grimwade’s exciting direction all have a lot to do with its appeal.

Of course, we can’t have the late Grimwade directing (Ken Bentley helms this one), but Smith gets to write his own follow-up to his debut serial, while musically Nigel Fairs produces a painstakingly accurate pastiche that is pure Kingsland. For a while I thought the sound designer had forgotten to add the distinctive pig-like squeals and grunts of the Marshmen, but this appears to be deliberate (for reasons I won’t disclose) and we do get to hear the Marshmen of old during the final episode.

The writer doesn’t just rehash the previous story. Of course, there are elements of Full Circle that demand to be revisited – the relentlessly advancing Marshmen, the scuttling spiders bursting out of riverfruit, the Doctor’s moral outrage at the scientists’ treatment of the native fauna – but he also expands his universe, uncovering where the Starliner went next, why the Marshmen attack, and intriguing applications of the creatures’ rapid evolution that have not been explored before.

There are elements of history repeating itself. The Doctor himself points out the improbability of the TARDIS passing through a CVE again, let alone setting down on Alzarius once more – so that we don’t have to. When the Time Lord realises the reason why, you have to admire the Adric-like genius of the writer for coming up with that. This doesn’t address the coincidental bad luck of the TARDIS landing during Mistfall (which happens only every fifty years), but then without that there wouldn’t be a story – or at least not a story called Mistfall.

Smith makes good use of all four TARDIS crew members, splitting them up so that they get to work and converse in teams of two. Meanwhile, Jemma Redgrave (UNIT’s Kate Stewart in recent television episodes and a forthcoming series from Big Finish) is well cast as a Decider.

If, like me, you’re a fan of Marshmen, Marshspiders, Starliners and Deciders, then the good news is that things have just come full circle.


Richard McGinlay

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