September’s second monthly adventure, ‘Tartarus’, provides a good, old fashioned crossover, as Fifth Doctor meets his hero Marcus Tullius Cicero.
Inviting themselves to a party in Cumae, the TARDIS crew introduce themselves as travellers; the Doctor is “Gaius Claudius”, with Nyssa and Tegan posing as his sisters. While the Doctor fawns over Cicero, Tegan’s anti-slavery attitudes raise eyebrows. She befriends Marc (George Watkins), before lights in the sky draw them all into something unearthly.
Writer David Llewellyn spins a cracking tale using elements of mythology and just a nod to The Wizard of Oz. Cicero’s letter writing frames the story as our heroes find themselves abducted to a world where creatures of legend are real. In order to survive, they must take on a quest.
Despite being his most ardent fan, the Doctor and Cicero clash over who is in charge to great comic effect. The script handles its large cast well, they all contribute to the problem solving, and each has their moment to shine. Set post-Adric, his death still looms large and the story tackles this sensitively, as well as considering some of Cicero’s unsavoury actions too. George Watkins impresses as potential companion Marc, filling that Adric shaped gap with his impressive memory. After a satisfying conclusion, David Llewellyn provides an incredibly cheeky final Latin gag too!
We do have one small grumble: the minimal part that Cicero’s wife Terentia (Laura Riseborough) has in proceedings – although we realise it would have added a further character into the mix!
The rest of the Trilogy
The story provides an intriguing coda to tease the following releases in the current trilogy. As both contain a pair of two-parters, ‘Interstitial’ & ‘Feast of Fear’ then ‘Warzone’ & ‘Conversion’, it will effectively become a five-part mini-season. It is great to see Big Finish shaking up the format a little again.