One of the most infamous of the BBC Past Doctor books tried to do what Marc Platt pulls off with style and verve here – incorporate the 5th Doctor into a prequel to one of the best loved of his predecessor’s stories. Terrance Dicks’ Warmonger was almost an object lesson in how not to do this, and in the same way that Rose seems to some fans to be a reaction to the mistakes of the Paul McGann TV movie, The Butcher of Brisbane hits all the notes correctly where the earlier book misses.
The Talons of Weng-Chiang is one of the best Doctor Who stories ever (which is not meant to condone either its racism or godawful rat effect) and anyone going near this has to be careful. David Mcintee penned a sequel for the Virgin Missing Adventures and wisely avoided much from the original story; the Jago and Litefoot Adventures have picked up on the minutiae rather than try to recreate the total ambience.
Platt doesn’t have much option here but to take the many hints that Robert Holmes gave in the original script and run with them, but he does so, quite often, in unexpected ways. Nyssa and Turlough’s relationship with Greel and the revelation as to Findecker really is both come from left field. The involvement of Mr Sin is made out to be something shocking – but, as happened with Mcintee’s novel, if you put the wretched homunculus on the cover, then everyone’s going to expect him to be there.
Verdict: More than worthy of its origin story, this is one of Platt’s best scripts for Big Finish: straightforward but thought-provoking and brought to life by a well-directed strong cast. 9/10