Doctor Who Main Range 251: The Moons Of Vulpana review

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In the second part of this trilogy featuring Mags, the Seventh Doctor appears to be up to his old manipulative tricks as he brings his new travelling companion home. While Titan Comics’ 2018 Hill Of Beans strip visited one of its moons, this story brings us to Vulpana itself; back in history to an apparent golden age when the world was ruled by a feudal system of aristocratic houses, each allied to one of the four orbiting moons.

Writer Emma Reeves, who has numerous credits include Torchwood, River Song and Bernice Summerfield on audio, as well as a host of television shows, creates a fascinating world around Mags’ Vulpanan heritage, as well as adding to the scant details of her on-screen backstory. While Mags continues to struggle with her lycanthropic identity, we discover that she is a pure-blooded lady of the second moon, and thus perfect marriage material for the upper classes.

Mixing themes of racial purity with those of tensions between scientific endeavour and tradition, the story also offers a healthy dose of good old-fashioned class snobbery, led by the wonderfully dominant matriarch Ulla (Nimmy March) and her pack of attention seeking sons. There is something of the period drama at play here, albeit with a terrific gothic werewolf setting – not that we use the “w word” in polite society, of course.

Without straying into spoiler territory, it is fair to say that there is a good dose of science fiction blended into the fantasy too, as you might expect. While we have no notion of the astrophysics behind the Vulpana’s moons and how they might affect the planet and its populace, they certainly help to conjure a striking image and make for a ripping yarn.

Director Samuel Clemens has assembled a cast of big characters for these wolves, notably the rivalrous siblings Issak (Peter Bankole) and Tob (Sean Knopp), plus their quieter brother Jaks (Irfan Shamji), and there is plenty of humour to enjoy as they fight for Mags’ attentions while she explores their world. Rounding out the cast is Big Finish stalwart Beth Goddard who plays the lowly doctor Barton who enjoys some good interactions with Sylvester McCoy’s enigmatic Time Lord.

Jessica Martin continues to shine as Mags, who revels in the attention and is none too trusting of the Doctor at times either. Perhaps it is with good reason too, as he appears not to have learned from his mistakes when it comes to encouraging his companions to face their fears.

As this current monstrous trilogy continues, this is another entertaining slice of storytelling and validation, should it be needed, of outgoing script editor Alan Barnes’ instincts to return to the character of Mags after all these years. We look to his concluding story next month, when the pair will be reunited with Ace for An Alien Werewolf In London.