February’s Doctor Who main range release from Big Finish is a brace of single disc fifth Doctor stories rather than the more common double-disc story. Peter Davison is joined by Tegan (Janet Fielding), Turlough (Mark Strickson) and newly re-voiced shape-shifting android Kamelion (Jon Culshaw).
The first story is Black Thursday, the tale of a 1902 coal mine disaster in a tight knit Welsh community of Abertysswg. Written by Jamie Anderson, it draws on a real disaster in the town where Jamie now lives. It’s a gripping mix of disaster, tragedy, anger, grief and suspicion of newly arrived outsiders. Add in some family secrets and there’s plenty in this power story. Tegan shows here pragmatic, capable side as she focuses on helping the wounded, while the Doctor and Turlough look for Kamelion, who has his own of reacting to events.
There are plenty of authentic accents, a despicable (and English) mine owner and a community torn apart by events outside their control.
The second story, Eddie Robson’s Power Game, lightens the tone as the TARDIS is in York, Kamelion has gone missing (again), and it’s 1984 when local TV channels keep getting interrupted by a game show called The Incredible Power Game. Things get stranger as Tegan vanishes, only to appear on the show. Writer Eddie Robson previously wrote 2010’s Situation Vacant, an eighth Doctor take on TV’s The Apprentice; this time his target is the 1980s programme The Adventure Game. Of course, there’s a sinister twist and a threat, but the joy is recreating the time and also how the Doctor interacts with some sci-fi fans as he gathers information on just where Tegan has been taken. Add in dimensional portals and the sinister Hostess (Harriet Kershaw) and there’s a lot to enjoy as first Tegan and then Turlough join the quest for the gems the Hostess needs for her spaceship.
The two stories are very different from each other and both work well. It’s interesting to hear Turlough as the main complainer, while Tegan blends disappointment with practicality, often having more direct impact than the Doctor. Kamelion’s unique abilities (and liabilities) are central, something that works for introductory stories, but could be dialled back in future trilogies.
Add in Ken Bentley’s direction and great sound/music from Mark Hendrick and Robert Harvey and it’s another hugely competent example of the main range, the core of Big Finish’s Doctor Who products.