Review: Doctor Who: Big Finish Audio 173: The Lady of Mercia

lady-of-mercia_cover_largeSome of the participants in a conference about the Dark Ages really want to bring the past to life…!

I’ve not always been a fan of Paul Magrs’ writing for the Doctor Who ranges, both printed and audio, but this is one of the best stories, both of his and for the reconstituted Davison team for Big Finish, in recent times.

Magrs neatly combines a historical setting with a ‘present-day’ one (it’s 1983, which would have been present day had this story been made for television at the time it’s slotted into continuity), and mixes and matches characters from both. There’s enough of the university politics and sexual mores that we’re familiar with from A Very Peculiar Practice/The History Man to sell the campus as a background to events, while the Mercia that Tegan is sent back to – no spoiler, given the cover – is a brutal world with its own code of conduct. Kudos to Ken Bentley and the sound designers for ensuring that these are instantly recognisable, even with the very quick cuts between scenes.

Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson rise to the quality of the script – there’s a nice nod to The Five Doctors, with Turlough as tea boy, and you can almost see Davison’s Doctor tearing his hair out in the climactic scenes in York Minster as events appear to be inexorably heading for disaster. It wouldn’t be a Magrs script without some kind of clever construction, and there’s a nod to the fourth wall with comments about the number of coincidences the TARDIS crew encounter, and the need for a miracle which, surprise surprise, arrives at the right moment.

Verdict: A thoroughly entertaining and well-constructed tale. 9/10

Paul Simpson

Click here to order The Lady of Mercia from Big Finish




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