Well hello folks, and welcome back to Big Finishing Move, where I take a look at audio dramas from the people at Big Finish and tell you if they suck or not. Today we’ll be looking at one of the earliest Sixth Doctor stories. From the year 2000, I give you The Spectre of Lanyon Moor.
Sixth Doctor and Dr. Evelyn Smythe, with Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart
Most everybody who knows Who is well aware who the Brigadier is so I can skip a detailed introduction here. However, a good many of you may be unfamiliar with Evelyn Smythe, so allow me to give you the basics. Dr. Evelyn Smythe (portrayed by Maggie Stables), is a professor of history and a bit of a chocoholic that began traveling with the Sixth Doctor in the previous story, The Marian Conspiracy. Eveyln is an older lady, so while she is still very much full of drive and vigor, her age and the knowledge she is past her physical prime are not lost on her. Having the wisdom of age and the experience of years of teaching have made Dr. Smythe a very nurturing and patient person, which makes her a great counterpoint for the Sixth Doctor’s special mix of brashness and bravado. She also holds the distinction of being the first companion for the Doctor created by Big Finish.
With that out of the way, let us return to the story at hand.
Let’s get this out of the way, The Spectre of Lanyon Moor is a slow burn. Set in Cornwall, the story takes the opportunity to inject a good deal of real life history and color into what essentially is a mystery plot. Any and all looking for a fast paced action plot need not apply here. The mystery side of the story has a strong Agatha Christie flair, casting loosely the Doctor as Poirot, Eveyln as Miss Marple, and the Brigadier as Poirot’s friend, Captain Hastings. Much like any Agatha Christie tale, almost all the supporting characters have nefarious secrets of their own that are uncovered as the story progresses. Still, much like many Doctor Who tales, all those secrets and lies lead up to an evil alien out to destroy the Earth.
I chose this story not only because I felt it was time for me to cover the Sixth Doctor, but because it is one of only two appearances by the Brigadier in Big Finish’s main Doctor Who range. The Brigadier’s unflappable Brit demeanor, despite all the sideways bonkers crazy stuff being a member of UNIT and a close friend to the Doctor has brought into his life, has always been an endearing trait to me. Nicholas Courtney doesn’t have as much to do as I would like, but he does get a point at the end to show despite being retired, the Brigadier is a badass. Without spoiling anything let me say this, without the Brig on this one, the world would be ash.
Maggie Stables is solid as usual. The story gives her plenty to do and some great one-liners to throw out at the bad guys. Evelyn spends whole sections away from the Doctor and I’m happy to report that the story never drags because of it. My favorite Evelyn parts are her dealings with young backpacker Nikki and the conversation she has with the Doctor after his verbal undressing of Professor Morgan. Both moments are excellent for character development and show off Stables’ acting chops.
Colin Baker’s performance however, is much more muted then I’ve ever seen or heard him do. The Sixth Doctor’s more overblown and harsh side pops up more than once, but for the majority of it he seems much calmer and cooler than normal. It isn’t anything that breaks the story, it just feels peculiar to have the noted egotist Sixth Doctor standing in for another noted egotist, Poirot, and not have him act as egocentric as normal.
If you’re the type of person who can take a slower pace and long sections of people going over research and comparing notes with each other, you’ll find an enjoyable treat of a story. If you are looking for something a little different and have $2.99 to spare, you might want to give this one a go. Anyone that needs excitement should stay away. There are riveting moments here, but they are few and far between and most likely won’t hold your interest. This one isn’t a shot of rotgut whiskey to be slammed, this is a glass of good scotch to be sipped and savored.
Please remember that Big Finish aren’t the only ones who do audio dramas. We have our own audio show Infinite Variations that you should be checking out!
Purchase Doctor Who: The Spectre of Lanyon Moor here:
As I stated in my last review, here are my plans for taking this series into the new year and beyond:
1. I was already planing on doing some Eighth Doctor stuff next, but with all the excitement and revelations surrounding The Night of the Doctor I’ve decided from now until the end of the 2013 I’ll be covering Eighth Doctor stories. I really lucked out here as some of these stories are perfect for the holiday season! So join me next time as we kick things off with:
2. January 2014 will be the launch of the third series of Fourth Doctor Adventures and I will be covering them as they are released. I’ll still be doing other reviews in between things, but expect at least one Fourth Doctor entry every month up until August where I’ll cover the final story from series three and Philip Hinchcliffe Presents box set!
I do hope you’ll join me as I try to make this thing I’m lucky enough to do bigger and better. Until then, happy listening!