Review by Jacob Licklider
There is something incredibly important to be said about these double releases for the main range. They have their pros and cons: they allow double the story, but only half the time which can create issues in depth of characterisation; but what they may do best is allow two new writers to introduce listeners to their style and their shot to write for Big Finish Productions.
This is the case for the second installment of Peter Davison’s second trilogy for 2019, Interstitial & Feast of Fear. Unlike the trilogy of double releases from 2017, this release does not connect the two stories very deeply outside of a spooky atmosphere fitting for the October release date, some concepts that go across the stories, and the continuing arc for new Fifth Doctor companion Marc played by George Watkins.
Carl Rowan‘s Interstital is the first story of this release and it shows that Rowans understands the nature of having a large TARDIS team. Rowans splits the companions in two teams: the Doctor is with Marc forming a sort of teacher/student dynamic which is interesting, while Nyssa and Tegan are together enjoying their own friendship throughout the story. Peter Davison’s age assists greatly in selling the performance of the Doctor as this wise tutor, teaching the superstitious, yet willing to learn Marc the ways of the world.
The setting of Interstitial is perhaps the story’s weakest element; mainly because it’s generic and feels like it is meant to be Nerva Beacon from The Ark in Space and Revenge of the Cybermen, but is just a generic beacon. Even the cover takes the CGI model of Nerva Beacon and places it front and center, making this aspect of the story just feel out of place. Outside of that quibble, Interstitial is an excellent little tale about scientific discovery and the madness that can come along with that quest for knowledge. The story deals with the idea of interstitial time, being experimented on in this Beacon, with both scientists being trapped in that realm.
One of the scientists begins to become obsessed with the notion of becoming a perfect being and conflict ensues once the TARDIS team arrives. The notion of perfection is an interesting concept and Janet Fielding’s Tegan Jovanka gets to give this story’s main ‘message’ so to speak on the subjectivity of the concept. It’s a monologue written by someone who obviously understands the character and serves as a great capstone to the story.
Interstitial also feels very much like a story of the Peter Davison era, with a lengthy scene in the TARDIS at the beginning of Part One, which isn’t a complaint as Rowans does spend the time in the TARDIS developing the characters. This is most apparent with the relationship between Nyssa and Marc, both working as characters ripped from their natural homes and Sarah Sutton and George Watkins give great performances. Overall, Interstitial is a fun way to spend an hour playing with some interesting science fiction concepts and some truly great character interactions. 8/10.
The second story in this release is Martyn Waite’s Feast of Fear, and while Interstitial used space for a spooky atmosphere, Feast of Fear uses history for fear. The setting of this story is Ireland during the 19th century potato famine where Nyssa has been set up as the leader of a twisted sort of freakshow run by the Space Wife. Feast of Fear is a story which uses the desperation of the Irish during the famine to great effect with sound design making the landscape not feel like a creepy forest, but a foggy and desolate wasteland. People are hungry and dying in the streets, and this twisted sideshow rises up as a potential threat and almost potential den of safety.
Ioan Morris is responsible for the music and the sound design for this story and while the music itself is standard, the sound design leaps out as an excellent aspect of the story. It is a design which knows just when to stay silent to allow the horror to slip in. Sarah Sutton as Nyssa steals the show in this story, giving a truly creepy performance as she implies that she has tortured and truly broken her travelling companions. She is supported by a greater villain played by Diedre Mullins who plays her role with a hypnotizing flair. Peter Davison as the Doctor is a character whose hope is all but defeated and he has almost accepted himself in a new role as a crack fortune teller. Once again it is Tegan who still has the will to fight, due to her brash Australian nature and Janet Fielding once again gets to play the role excellently.
Marc, however, feels ever so slightly as a weaker link in this story as he really only comments on events and is there in a typical companion role. This detriment to the story perhaps only comes because there isn’t a focus on any of Marc’s relationships outside of the climax having him attempt to snap Nyssa out of her for lack of a better term, madness. All and all, Feast of Fear is a traditional Doctor Who romp which is pretty good with some horror elements thrown in for good measure. 7/10.
Overall, Interstitial & Feast of Fear continues the train of the Marc trilogy, building on some of the relationships and generally telling two great Doctor Who stories. 7.5/10.