In October, we got two stories for the price of one from new writers to Big Finish: Interstitial by Carl Rowens and Feast of Fear by Martyn Waltes. Both feature the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) with Tegan (Janet Fielding), Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), and new companion the former Roman slave, Marc (George Watkins). These are two very different stories that I think are a promising start for these writers.
I always enjoy a story that plays with concepts of time. It’s when Doctor Who gets really conceptual and weird. The first story deals with the idea of Interstitial Time – capturing a moment of reality to use as you see fit. Luckily, a perfectly sane and rational person gets hold of this… Only joking; she’s mad. The TARDIS lands during the middle of an experiment, or just before, or a thousands years after: it’s complicated. The crew is split up and must venture through the space station to discover the source of the temporal problem.
Something I have really enjoyed with this trilogy of stories has been the pairing up of Nyssa and Tegan. They often talk about how they are best friends, but we were rarely shown it on screen. Rowens captures their relationship very well. He does not let Nyssa’s intelligent overshadow Tegan, who contributes to the conclusion as much as anyone else.
Whilst Nyssa and Tegan are muddling about, the Doctor and Marc are on a different time track, attempting to solve the problem from their end. This set-up allows our new companion to have some one-on-one time with the Doctor. You can tell it isn’t easy for the Doctor, taking on a new companion after Adric’s loss. Quite how long ago that was is hard to tell; the chronology of the Fifth Doctor stories is weird. I think there are whole years between Time-Flight and Arc of Infinity.
Ongoing continuity head scratchers aside, Marc is coming along well. Historical companions interacting with technology is always interesting as we see the Doctor try to think of a way to articulate what solar stacks are to a Roman.
Feast of Fear
From the far future, we travel to the past (from our perspective) to Ireland during the famine. An incredibly evocative period of history that is the perfect setting for a Doctor Who story. As the play opens, we are flung into the middle of the story. The one-hour format means that Waltes has chosen to jump right to the most important part, which I think is a good call.
A circus has been traveling across Ireland, leaving horror in its wake. As you would expect, the TARDIS crew are caught up in goings-on, but not quite in the way you would usually expect. There is an alien parasite taking over the bodies of people, changing their personalities and making them do its bidding.
The parasite flings the TARDIS team’s relationships on their heads and we get to see a different side to many of them, which I shall not spoil here.
Just like the first story, there is a wonderful supporting cast. Using some actual Irish actors, Big Finish recreate what I imagine the destitute people of Ireland would have felt like. Everyone in the piece sounds like they are on the verge of collapsing under the weight of the circumstances. The guests do an excellent job of getting you invested in the story, even though the subject matter is quite depressing.
Give them both a listen if you can.
Interstitial/ Feast of Fear is available from Big Finish for £14.99 on CD and £12.99 on Download.