Review by Doctor Squee (Host of Gallifrey Stands Podcast)
Night of the Vashta Nerada by John Dorney
The Doctor arrives on ‘Fun World’; except for the fun never made it. Before the world of fun and games could open construction was held up by a predator attacking and days before opening communication with the world went dead. A small team has been sent to the world to find out what happened and they are joined by the Doctor arriving alone in his Tardis. He soon works out the fearful foe moving literally in the shadows in the Vashta Nerada and they aren’t taking prisoners.
This is a smart and gripping earlier adventure to give the Vashta prior to the events in ‘Silence In The Library’. We get a bit more background on them and why they went from a peaceful race to attacking humanity. It’s in a lot of ways a classic horror story with an enemy following where ever you go, a greedy corporation who still wants to exploit the situation and not give up the planet and our hero the Doctor just trying to get it so people can make it out alive. The Vashta as a race seem to be very visual, so it’s even more credit for the implied menace and fear they have conjured up through great writing by Dorney and savvy direction from Barnaby Edwards. Tom Baker still finds space to be funny but also gives a sense of urgency to every line.
Empire of the Racnoss by Scott Handcock
The Racnoss and Gallifrey are at war. The Doctor wants no part in it, but ends up being dragged in when he saves the Racnoss’ Empress’ consort. The Gallifreyans he meets think him a traitor, the Racnoss Empress does not trust him but wants to use him as does her ex, the Emperor. And before the Doctor knows it he is caught up in a power struggle for the leadership of the Racnoss.
This for me is the perfect kind of 5th Doctor story. More than any other Doctor, he was the diplomat who wanted to bring balance and a sense of fair game to the universe and he gets very English and cross when things just aren’t cricket. There is a lovely parallel between the Racnoss / Timelord war and the time war from the Doctors future. The Doctor wanting to stay out of it, but ultimately not being able to.
The Racnoss are so close to sounding silly with the screeches in their speech but this once again shows how committing to the part works in volumes. If Nigel Planner as the Racnoss Emperor, Adjoa Andoh as the Racnoss Empress or any other cast member didn’t sell it this wouldn’t work to the chilling effect it does. Maybe one of the easier transfers to audio as an enemy with a strong, distinctive voice, but still incredibly well done.
The Carrionite Curse by Simon Guerrier
Ol’ Sixy lands in a buskers fair in 1980’s Midlands. He soon insinuates himself with Katy Bell; a local goth girl who has recently returned to the city. But what starts as a fair soon degrades into a witch hunt, literally. The Doctor, Katy and her Dad, the local vicar must cast out the real villains at work here and to do so they use a book by an old friend.
Another perfect match of foe and Doctor. Colin Baker laps up this ‘word porn’ laden story where the Doctor gets to defeat the bad guys with his words. Although the last two stories have done a great job of having the Doctor either solo or as part of a team, it’s nice to throw in a companion of the week in Maya Sondhi’s Katy who is very enjoyable in this story. Without giving too much away there is also a coincidental call back to someone the Who world recently lost and one of his last adventures. It would be a nice touch anyway in this story, but here is seems very poignant.
Day of the Vashta Nerada by Matt Fitton
In our second dose of Vashta Nerada, Cardinal Ollistra and her Timelord chums are trying to weaponise, what the Doctor already knows to be a far too deadly race. And when things go as wrong as they were bound to do, the Timelords assisted by the Doctor will be lucky to come out of this thing alive.
This is a really nice intro to the Time war story the 8th Doctor is about to start in the upcoming boxset. It is wonderful to see him again playing alongside Jacqueline Pearce and it really now feels like the Time War batton has been past back through time from the War Doctor and the late great John Hurt.
The complexity of the 8th Doctors position in relation to the time war is on full display and we get to see him making choices we know he will ultimately one day not be able to make and it shows how involved and clever Big Finish can be to have this as an enjoyable story in it’s own right, but one that weaves so well into another range. The Vashta are already a scary and foreboding foe and this story intensifies that. It also as the second story with them in this set allows for some fun callback references. I was a little bit crestfallen for just a moment when I saw they had used one new monster twice, but it really pays off.
This is a great set that not only plays well with these new monsters without ruining continuity, but it also manages to still do something new with them and evolves them. A tough juggling act. It was nice for the 4th Doctor to be used and I think all through they have chosen the right villain for the right Doctor. I look forward to other monsters from Nu Who meeting out Doctors of old.
I give this 10/10.
You can buy the set on download or CD here https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/classic-doctors-new-monsters-volume-02-1472