The latest main range trilogy kicks off with the return of an old friend as the Seventh Doctor catches up with Mags, Jessica Martin’s werewolf character from 1988’s The Greatest Show In The Galaxy.
While that story left her with the Psychic Circus, we pick up some time later with Mags in search of a cure for her condition; originally triggered by moonlight or its simulation, her transformations have become unpredictable and more frequent – and due to her travels, she cannot go home to Vulpana where she would be marked as an outsider.
The action on Gokroth centres on a rural community, where the villagers are plagued with monsters from the forest while an alien Doctor in a nearby tower performs questionable experiments. Naturally, there are otherworldly elements too, as Gokroth attracts interest from the stars and the Doctor finds himself with a rival in the shape of the charismatic showman Varron (the dastardly Jeremy Hitchen) and his menagerie.
Matt Fitton’s story draws on a heady mix of horror movie themes, providing a mad scientist with her lumbering manservant, fantastical beasts and a good, old fashioned pitchfork wielding mob, before blending in science fiction elements to twist it into something a little more unexpected. It did feel rather exposition heavy as revelations came toward the end of the third episode, especially at the cliff-hanger, although this was doubtless as a result of the complexity of the setup.
Sylvester McCoy is, as ever, on great form with a suggestion that his Doctor may be feeling his age, hence following up on old friends. For her part, Jessica Martin returns easily to the role of Mags and is given opportunities for character development, something there was precious little time for onscreen where her lupine abilities were integral to the plot. We look forward to seeing where this trilogy takes her.
The Monsters Of Gokroth is the first Doctor Who directional outing for Samuel Clements, though he helmed the recent Shilling And Sixpence Investigate for the Big Finish Originals range, and he ensures the tale maintains a great pace. On sound design and music duties, Andy Hardwick creates a world that is suitably monstrous, full of all manner of beastly howls, snaps and snarls as well as plenty of dramatic tones.
With its task of reintroducing Mags and bringing her onboard the TARDIS, this story is one of pleasantly limited stakes; there is not a whole universe in peril here, just a village – but they are no less deserving of the Doctor’s attentions.