Review by Jacob Licklider
The 2020 Monthly Range releases from July to October were initially announced as the yearly anthology release Time Apart, followed by a trilogy of Fifth Doctor stories: Thin Time/Madquake, The Lost Resort, and Perils and Nightmares. These releases were recorded, edited, and ready for release until the COVID-19 pandemic shut the world down and Big Finish Productions decided that one of these releases would not be suitable as it came too close to real world issues, so The Lost Resort and its follow up Perils and Nightmares were pulled from the release schedule, the other prepared main range releases The Flying Dutchman/Displaced was pulled ahead and plans were changed. So here we are, a year later and the pandemic while still ravaging the world, has an endpoint in sight with the development of the vaccines, Big Finish have released these three stories as a box set, capitalising on the idea of it as a continuation of the early 1980s era of Doctor Who in the wonderful video trailer as The Lost Resort and Other Stories. The Lost Resort keeps its title, but Perils and Nightmares was rebranded as the much less generic titles The Perils of Nellie Bly and Nightmare of the Daleks. A quick warning, this is not a jumping on point for the Fifth Doctor adventures, as essentially two monthly range releases released after the range ended, it’s wrapping up the final storyline for the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan, and Marc and as such this review will be discussing the events of said story arc.
The Lost Resort by A.K. Benedict is all about the fallout from the last three releases with this TARDIS team, Warzone/Conversion, Time Apart, and Thin Time/Madquake. The team is back together but from the first scene there is the underlying tension of the Doctor’s actions, letting Marc be partially converted into a Cyberman, managing to save him, and then abandoning all of them on a planet so he can essentially sulk. He initially tries to pick up exactly where he left off with his companions, but they (Tegan especially) won’t allow him to get away with it, especially after Adric’s death, so the Doctor decides to take them to Gallifrey to talk. The idea with this is to get an outside observer to mediate the conversations, something which comes across as incredibly callous. This only makes the Doctor’s issues work and of course, they never get to Gallifrey with the TARDIS being dragged off course to an asylum which actually might be a good spot to recuperate. This is the ‘resort’ of the title and the story eventually develops to explain how it is lost, having patients and staff infected with a deadly virus, this being the story that caused the delay in production. The asylum also brings up ghosts of the past, forcing the Doctor to confront the death of Adric for the second time, with Matthew Waterhouse reappearing in an incredibly unsettling guest spot. This is the ghost of Adric we’re talking about, something the Doctor initially denies could be possible, but has to overcome throughout the story when it is eventually revealed which is going on.
The sanatorium itself is staffed mainly by robots without faces, but with personalities as Benedict writes a subplot about identity and what it means to have one as a parallel for Marc, a character whose identity has been called into question since being partially converted into a Cyberman. Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton as Tegan and Nyssa are highlights with Peter Davison, with Marc’s arc being mainly background setup for Nightmare of the Daleks, a theme which will run through the entirety of the box set. Tegan and Nyssa both have to come to terms with Adric’s death and the ghost that appears here, as well as some ghosts from their personal past. The staff of the sanatorium have found the virus to be deadly, but leaving an impression which makes this story have a horror bent as there is the possibilities the characters are dead without even knowing about it yet, and of course the virus eventually infects the TARDIS team. It’s an absolutely brilliant story and despite not being the only story to deal with Adric’s death(Spare Parts and The Boy That Time Forgot come to mind), it is the most definitive version of that story. 10/10.
The second story is the one that perhaps feels like the closest thing to filler, an hour long historical story The Perils of Nellie Bly. The premise is simple enough for a two part story, the TARDIS lands on the RMS Oceanic which is transporting journalist Nellie Bly to California in one of the last legs of her journey around the world, attempting to do it in under 80 days, basically following the route of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, and the Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa, and Marc have to help ensure that history takes the right course (the Doctor making a bet in New Jersey that Nellie Bly will reach her destination at the exact moment that she indeed does). Newcomer to Big Finish Sarah Ward (who would write for The Lone Centurion after this was recorded) brings a bit of levity to the set as while this is not a farce, it is undeniably written with a comedic slant. Tegan and Nellie swap clothes leading to Tegan being in danger for the cliffhanger, Nellie getting on the wrong train and having to be put back on track, bringing things closer to a comedy of errors. Nellie Bly is played by Sydney Feder who is playing is close to, but not quite, like a stereotypical northeastern journalist from the 1920s, getting the apparent mannerisms of Bly down, and Ward’s script does have some depth in exploring Bly’s position in a man’s world. There is also a small inclusion of Marc using his cybernetically enhanced body to intimidate some sailors which foreshadows the next story much like The Lost Resort began building up. Overall, it’s a nice little diversion, but is slightly overshadowed by two more impactful stories. 7/10.
The set finishes with Nightmare of the Daleks by Martyn Waites which is a story with an interesting use of the Daleks. Throughout the story the idea is that the nightmares of the characters on this planet where the TARDIS arrives are somehow in reality, but this is a story building to a brilliant twist involving what the actual nightmares mean. This drilling rig is a beautifully evocative setting, bringing in a sense of claustrophobia with the sound design by Rob Harvey. It’s also a story that brings Marc’s story to a close with George Watkins giving a powerhouse performance as Marc realises that this is a situation where he can actually help indefinitely and a place where he kind of belongs. Waites script manages to make the ending bittersweet, as Conversion and Tartarus both setup that Marc was not going to get a happy ending and that’s where the first trilogy ended and this second “trilogy” (if you include Thin Time/Madquake as was originally intended). It also gives the rest of the main cast another powerhouse performance, although this does mean that the supporting cast all become more stock tropes instead of fully fleshed characters which is a shame. The Daleks are also used incredibly well here, although I won’t go into exactly what happens with them here but it is clear that Waites knows what makes stories like The Power of the Daleks and The Evil of the Daleks work as classics, emulating but not copying that behaviour here. It is a near perfect exit although it is a shame that this is the end of Marc, as the Fifth Doctor needs another long running original companion. 9/10.
Overall, while it is incredibly sad that The Lost Resort and Other Stories took so long to be released, it was well worth the wait, giving listeners a new box set and providing some great closure to one of the hanging arcs from the Monthly Range. 8.5/10.
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