Big Finish does Fugitive of the Judoon! Or is this Season 6B!? For a Monthly Range release, Roland Moore’s Colony of Fear crosses into some very interesting wider Doctor Who territory that certainly has you on edge in suspense at times.
The Sixth Doctor and Constance Clarke have ventured to the far-out world of Triketha, where a small colony has a problem with giant hornets. And despite these hostilities, it’s a beautiful world that smells slightly of cinnamon. A shame that fact doesn’t get mentioned again, but great world-building all the same.
Besides the anachronism of these hornets being really, really giant, they also stand out because they can talk to the Doctor. Neither Constance nor the colonists can hear them at first though, but we’re given some grapevines of the motives behind why these intelligent aliens may be hassling the colonists beyond it being the kind of thing that large insectoids do.
The colony has been established to source new pharmaceuticals from flora and fauna to aid humanity by any means possible, and the obvious conclusion to take here is we have some kind scenario in which nature is fighting back. But as the end of episode one approaches, it proves not so. And the TARDIS has moved.
Where episode one ends sets up the story that plays out over the next three segments, with Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor starting off by taking control but then slowly losing it as more unknowns are introduced to the plot. First there’s a spaceship, which seems to be the source of the hornets, then the frozen pilot of the ship who is far more than he appears, and then the unusual effects on the colonists of the substance the hornets are making.
These elements gradually combine and become ever more entwined until a big, big cliffhanger at the end of episode two. Have a break before the next one, and let the questions the end of that episode poses sink in. Do you really know the Doctor? Does the Doctor really know himself? Are there, perhaps, portions of the Doctor’s many lives that it is better for the character to not know about?
You’ll be making your guesses as episode three begins, but the Fugitive of the Judoon-style identity crisis subplot is just that as the more pressing threat of the insectoids becomes clear. It turns out that they have an incredible power to turn other animals into creatures just like themselves.
The atmosphere of the story shifts though, with the self-doubt the Doctor now has (can the Sixth Doctor ever have self-doubt?) spreading enough distrust among the colonists for his handle on solving the wasp situation to slightly unravel. And there’s one character who absolutely pounces on that fact. This would fit straight into the revived television era.
It’s incredible how far away the start of episode one and the middle of episode three are in tone and pace; it’s packing in several eras of Doctor Who in one story, and sometimes the development of the story is of more interest, rather than the action as it happens live. And according to the behind-the-scenes, there was quite a lot of actual development between the storyline that was pitched and what ended up in production.
Throughout all of this, it’s fair to say that Constance takes a bit of a backseat until the final episode, where the Doctor is left with the dilemma of saving her potentially at the expense of others. Having had his trustworthiness put into question already, it brings the focus back on to who the Doctor is and how he acts. And I’ll leave it there – I mean, as the Doctor says himself, maybe there’s a reason why he sometimes doesn’t have all the details.
Colony of Fear is available from Big Finish now.