Review by Jacob Licklider
Before getting her chance to write for the Main Range of Big Finish Productions, Emma Reeves wrote several hour-long plays in the Torchwood and New Adventures of Bernice Summerfield Ranges. The Moons of Vulpana is her first audio play to be over an hour in length and perhaps an interesting quirk of that fact is that The Moons of Vulpana does not play out like a traditional four-episode serial. Instead the story almost feels like three smaller stories interweaved to create a story arc spread across one story. This is by no means a slight on Emma Reeves’ ability to write a story, as she breaks up potential monotony of Big Finish’s usual four-episode serial format.
The plot-line running through The Moons of Vulpana is character-based: the Doctor, in his usual manipulative manner, is attempting to get his new companion Mags to control her werewolf nature by taking her to her home planet during its golden age. Sylvester McCoy and Jessica Martin as the Doctor and Mags respectively share an excellent chemistry. To be transparent, I have not listened to The Monsters of Gokroth at the time of writing, but the performances are enough to convey the type of relationship the two characters have. Reeves does not quite have enough control over making the Seventh Doctor’s presence known when he is off-screen to hint to the listener that he is manipulating events behind the scenes, and there are points where it feels like the Doctor could be replaced with any other incarnations.
Perhaps the inconsistencies in writing the Seventh Doctor can be explained by the fact that Reeves is writing a story with Mags as the central focus. The punk werewolf undergoes a journey of self-discovery, she must come to terms with the darker side of her nature. The story chronicles her highs and lows as she potentially finds someone to love and attempts to dismantle the darker points of Vulpanian society brick by brick. The planet Vulpana has four great houses, all with an aristocracy obsessed with keeping bloodlines pure, as well as an examination on the concept of alpha, beta, and omega wolves. There is a final punch near the end of Mag’s story here which keeps you thinking just about the past two hours and when Big Finish does thought provoking stories the story is usually hit out of the park. Finally, the icing on the cake is the addition of Samuel Clemens to the production team as the director of not only The Moons of Vulpana, but also the entire Mags trilogy. Clemens’ style integrates traditional music and quiet transitions to suggest a medieval setting which plays well with the political nature of the story. The plot is all about a house attempting to keep its bloodline and traditions alive through political machinations, think A Song of Ice and Fire with a Doctor Who twist and safe for all ages. The team should be applauded for a complex story produced by almost entirely new members to Big Finish Productions. 9/10.
Download/buy here: https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/doctor-who-the-moons-of-vulpana-1281