Both the Doctor and his TARDIS have been possessed by the
anti-time force that calls itself Zagreus. Meanwhile Charley,
like Alice in Wonderland, finds herself in a bizarre world
in which the characters she encounters seem strangely familiar...
With Zagreus, Big Finish had something of a no-win
situation on their hands. They were under pressure to produce
something special for Doctor Who's 40th anniversary,
but the all too obvious idea of a multi-Doctor meeting has
already been done to death. So far we've had The Three
Doctors, The Five Doctors, The Two Doctors
and Dimensions in Time on TV; Cold Fusion, The
Eight Doctors and Heart of TARDIS in prose; and
The Sirens of Time and Project: Lazarus on audio.
And that's not an exhaustive list!
company's solution was to reunite as many Who regulars
as were willing to participate but to cast most of them in
unfamiliar roles. Hence we get Anneke (Polly) Wills as Charley's
mother Lady Louisa Pollard, Maggie (Evelyn) Stables as a member
of the Sisterhood of Karn, and Colin Baker as a vampire, among
many others. The exceptions are Paul McGann as the Eighth
Doctor, India Fisher as Charley, Lalla Ward as President Romana,
John Leeson as K9 and Louise Jameson as Leela. Nicola Bryant
and Bonnie Langford, who appeared with more than one of the
featured Doctors on TV, play two roles each in this audio
drama, one alongside each of their former co-stars.
this approach is certainly novel, I couldn't help feeling
a bit disappointed that most of the actors were not playing
the roles I wanted to hear them in. If I wanted to hear Peter
Davison playing someone other than the Fifth Doctor, for example,
I wouldn't be listening to a Doctor Who CD. I mean
no disrespect to the performers themselves, who clearly relished
the fun and the challenge of playing something different.
Fortunately, there is also a kind of "meeting of minds", which
satisfied the fanboy in me (I won't go into specifics, otherwise
it might spoil the story for you).
aspect of Zagreus that certainly does not disappoint
is the sheer scale of the exercise. At 220 minutes duration,
this adventure is equivalent to nine or ten television episodes.
As with similarly lengthy stories, such as The Daleks'
Master Plan or The War Games, the plot does tend
to run on the spot at times - Charley experiences four different
illusory worlds over the course of the tale - but whichever
way you look at it, this is a whole lot of Who for
well as being an anniversary special, this story also resolves
a cliffhanger that has kept us on tenterhooks for 18 months,
which for me has been the hardest wait since the TV series'
1985-6 hiatus. However, it also opens up a new can of worms.
Previous fictional media have made various accusations about
the revered Time Lord Rassilon (portrayed here by Don Warrington),
including the theory that he founded the Death Zone, that
he plotted the death of Omega and that he was a vampire. But
they were just rumours and legends, and nothing compared to
the xenophobic streak he exhibits here. As a result, the universe
is threatened by a vengeful new menace known as the Divergents.
I say "new", though this foe is notably similar to the Ferutu
from Cold Fusion.
Zagreus sets the Eighth Doctor on a dramatically different
course for his next batch of audio adventures. With certain
lines of dialogue suggesting that BBC Books' Eighth Doctor
might not necessarily occupy the same universe as Big Finish's
version, anything goes for McGann's incarnation in 2004...
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