Happy holidays folks, and welcome back to Big Finishing Move, where we separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of Doctor Who audio dramas from Big Finish. Well, the time has come to kiss 2013 goodbye and I can think of no better way to do that than to finish off our little Eighth Doctor mini-marathon with a story that begins on New Year’s. So prepare for all kinds of timey-wimey shenanigans as we dive into Seasons of Fear.
TARDIS Team: Eighth Doctor and Charley
Seasons of Fear comes to us from the minds of the husband and wife duo of Paul Cornell and Caroline Symcox. Cornell is a well-known name among the Doctor Who fandom. He has written numerous Doctor Who novels, comics, and audio dramas, and he is the creator of the popular spin-off character, Bernice Summerfield. Symcox is a noted author, theologian, historian, and minister. She is also the author of her own Doctor Who audio drama for Big Finish, The Council of Nicaea.
Back in Storm Warning, Charley mentioned that her reason for stowing away on the R101 was so that she could meet a young man at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore for New Year’s and the Doctor has decided to help her keep that date. Relaxing in a nearby garden, the Doctor is confronted by a man named Sebastian Grayle. Grayle, an immortal, claims that he and the Doctor are old enemies and that his masters, the new lords of time, now rule the planet and have set up this pocket dimension just so they could meet one last time as Grayle had already killed the Doctor. Not one to take the conquering of Earth, the possible overthrow of the Time Lords, and his own impending death lightly, the Doctor grabs Charley and hops inside the TARDIS in a dash across time to try and put a stop to Grayle and his masters’ plans.
When Doctor Who first began, it was in part a show that was going to teach children about history, something that this story embraces. You are going to learn all kinds of interesting historically accurate facts throughout this story. I found all the cool internal political and religious material to be fascinating and I wish that the franchise did that sort of thing more often. Another cool observation is that Seasons of Fear references to things that haven’t happened yet in the overall arc. There is a reason a Dalek briefly appears in Roman times, there is a reason they get a fundamental fact about America blatantly wrong, and there is a reason the Doctor is narrating parts of this story to an individual of great importance. Once you’ve listened to these other stories, you can work back to this one and understand what seemed like random elements at the time do in fact make sense. It is a fun bit of storytelling and goes to show the true inventiveness one can have with time travel plots.
Seasons of Fear is a fun yet severely flawed piece that suffers due to over-thinking. A good portion of the problems stem from the fact that we have authors that are too clever for their own good. They go out of their way to give reasons why the Doctor and Charley have to stop Grayle in this specific manner instead of dropping him off on a remote planet or something along those lines. Other stories would have just said there was some kind of time distortion or alien tech keeping them from doing half of these things, but Cornell and Symcox try come up with logical reasons for everything. Unfortunately, some of that reasoning is so flimsy that it ends up hurting the story in the end. I understand their motives and I applaud the effort, but this is one of those rare cases where trying to explain away plot holes actually makes them more pronounced.
I also feel that the villains in the piece are overly foreshadowed. When you set up a mystery to drive your narrative, a significant part of the enjoyment is working to pick out the clues and try to guess the solution before all is revealed. However, in this story the hints as to the identities of the big bads are about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the crotch. I don’t get to feel like a clever detective when the story is beating me over the head with the answer. Moreover, having the Doctor comment that he should have figured it out quicker once again makes the problem stick out even more. I will admit however, that having Stephen Perring give such an overblown performance as Sebastian Grayle was a nice nod to a certain character from the original story where the baddies were first introduced. The real mystery here is why writers as talented as these two could do such a great job subtly setting up all these cool situations that would pay off down the road, yet wrote such a boring and obvious mystery in their own story.
Despite all the flaws, I still have to recommend this one. It has a great sense of creative ambition and I rather enjoy something fail at being great than something that succeeds at being mediocre any day.
Purchase Doctor Who: Seasons Of Fear Here:
As we jump into the new year, Big Finishing Move will be on break until the release of the first episode of season three of the Fourth Doctor Adventures. Once that series starts again, I’ll be covering each of the Fourth Doctor’s adventures as they are released. I will try to also continue to do other reviews in-between releases, but you can count on at least one entry of Big Finishing Move per month through the month of August. So I’ll see you all in January, when we tackle:
Remember to check out our own audio drama series here on One Of Us, Infinite Variations! If you liked this Big Finish review feel free to check out my other ones: