Review by Jacob Licklider
April’s main range release is ‘Cry of the Vultriss’ and kicks off 2020’s Sixth Doctor trilogy and is notable for featuring Flip Jackson and Constance Clarke as companions after a nearly two-and-a-
half-year hiatus due to scheduling conflicts. The last release to feature this team was ‘Static released in December 2017 which ended with a dramatic twist and as such in this review there will be spoilers for both ‘Static’ and ‘Cry of the Vultriss’ in this review, you have been warned!
Darren Jones’ premise for ‘Cry of the Vultriss‘ at first glance takes cues from The Curse of Peladon; the planet Cygia-Rema is ruled by avian life forms called Vultriss and a party of ambassadors from Mars have arrived on the planet to assist in guiding the planet into the modern age. The Doctor, Flip, and Constance crash land and get embroiled in the political intrigue as the queen is chosen for the cry of the Vultriss, an ability to kill with her voice. There is a revolution brewing to overthrow the queen as there has been a discrepancy in the time between the tie, the Ice Warriors on the planet seem to have their own motives, and the Doctor and company are simply trying to sees things through peacefully. The presence of the Ice Warriors in this story and the whole idea of the planet joining the Federation clearly takes inspiration from The Curse of Peladon, but where Darren Jones puts a twist on the story archetype, is to add layers of complexity. One of the notable aspects of The Curse of Peladon is that it uses the Ice Warriors as protagonists, and not the usual antagonists of their two previous appearances to create a message that the Ice Warriors are more than just ‘stock’ villains. What Jones does in Cry of the Vultriss is to take both portrayals of the Ice Warriors, as protagonists and antagonists, and allows all of the Ice Warriors present in this story to have their own morality.
They are not a hive group of characters in this story as their Empress, played by Adele Lynch who played the Empress of Mars in the new series, is revealed late in the story to be behind the political unrest on the planet. Empress Vextyr abducted Queen Skye and gave her the cry, wiped her memory, and gave her the throne so the Martians can take advantage of the planet. She makes an excellent villain and Lynch gives such a duplicitous performance that the twist is well foreshadowed, but still comes as a surprise. Jones takes cues from The Curse of Peladon, by doing the opposite. In that story the Doctor was immediately suspicious of the Ice Warriors due to his past experience, while here Jones makes the Doctor not suspect the Ice Warriors and only pursue the assassination and revolution plot-lines. Colin Baker plays the part excellently and he’s giving one of those performances with warmth for his Doctor. Baker plays the Doctor as an advisor who cares that the Vultriss are able to achieve what the planet Peladon did.
Flip Ramon (nee Jackson) as played by Lisa Greenwood is also excellent as she fills the standard companion role for this story, but does it excellently. Flip is such a down to Earth character her advice given to the Vultriss, Skye and her servants in particular, are incredibly reflective of The Monster of Peladon. At the end of the story comes her best moment which I won’t reveal here, but there is a real tenderness to the character from Greenwood which is reflected excellently. The biggest problem with the story does involve the fact that Flip doesn’t have as much to do outside of stock actions which aren’t necessarily exclusive to her character. Constance Clarke on the other hand is put into the revolution position and has to adapt to her new situation. Here’s where the fallout from Static occurs: Constance has just been resurrected and hasn’t adjusted to that experience. She is no longer in her original body and Miranda Raison plays subtle cues to show to the audience that Constance has been shaken and not recovered from it. She still has to think on her feet and gives an excellent performance.
Finally the production of the story is excellent with John Ainsworth in the director’s chair, helping to give the Vultriss and the planet their own distinct sound. While Tom Webster’s cover art portrays the Vultriss reminiscent of the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal, Ainsworth’s direction and the sound design from Simon Power only makes these references, just that. The Vultriss have subtle differences in the way they speak and the way their footsteps are portrayed to suggest their avian nature. There also isn’t the over the top creep factor of the Skeksis in the story which is a plus. Cygia-Rema has its own alien soundscape with harsh winds and a real intensity to what the sounds are. Overall, Cry of the Vultriss is an excellent opener to this trilogy of main range stories that’s only let down by certain points that are far too ‘traditional’To Doctor Who. 8/10.