For this latest Doctor Who Short Trip we join Turlough back in the classroom. Not at Brendon, the public school from Mawdryn Undead where the Doctor first encountered him, but at the futuristic St. Neot’s – a school run on traditional lines for the elite of the galaxy.
Shrouded from the hubbub of the universe, St. Neot’s fosters a new generation, sons of the rich and privileged who will go on to lead worlds. Currently though, they are just a bunch of pushy and vindictive rich kids.
Undercover as a student, while the Doctor takes on the background role of Groundskeeper, Turlough endures daily ordeals, such as biting his tongue at the deliberate mispronunciation of his name and completing lines from vindictive staff.
By placing him back in such a hated environment, writer Stephen Fewell – perhaps better known to Big Finish listeners for his acting role as Bernice Summerfield’s errant husband Jason Kane – puts Turlough through quite an ordeal. Amusingly, it is one the Doctor feels he is uniquely qualified for and he is right too, as we join Turlough sizing up his fellow students and classifying their level of threat; he knows how the public school system works and what he needs to do to survive it.
The story is well paced and builds an interesting mystery, with a unique and uncompromising villain at its heart and, as all the best Short Trips do, puts the companion front and centre – Turlough is the main focus here as the Doctor remains out of the action for much of the time.
It seems to have been an inordinately long time since we last heard from Mark Strickson – not since 2016’s The Memory Bank And Other Stories – as recent Fifth Doctor adventures have been focusing on the early Davison line-up. That is a shame as Strickson is an excellent narrator who populates the story with plenty of diverse voices, as well as capturing something of Davison’s Doctor in his delivery. Fingers crossed he will be back for more soon.