You have to remain attentive throughout Steve Cole’s conclusion to the latest Fifth Doctor trilogy or you may miss some of the important clues which are doled out carefully throughout the entire story. It comes as something of a surprise to learn from the CD extras that one particular component of the story was added in after the original beats of the tale had been worked out: as Cole notes, that particular item (and you’ll be able to guess what it is if you’ve been noticing what aspect of this trilogy quite deliberately hasn’t been getting a lot of publicity) is now integral – and provides the sort of conclusion which works best for this Doctor.
It’s normal for a Doctor Who story to have elements which aren’t what they appear on the surface, and we’ve certainly had this sort of “double life” idea in the series before, but Cole adds a dark Grimm nightmare aspect to it which brings back memories of some of the Virgin New and Missing Adventures of the mid-1990s. The Steamroller Man is one of the nastier concepts to make it into a main range Who audio (we’ve had some nastier ones in the spin-offs but not usually in the monthly series), and Ken Bentley ensures that there is an increasing air of menace each time he appears.
Bentley’s got a strong cast together for this too: Francesca Hunt makes her third appearance in recent times, and becomes a lynchpin of the story, while Rebecca Night, Victoria Hamilton and David Chittenden are given some challenges by the dual nature of their roles. Cole doesn’t neglect to give his stars some good moments: you can see Peter Davison wringing his hands as events spiral out of the Doctor’s control, and the look of triumph on Sarah Sutton’s face when Nyssa is underestimated.
Verdict: A convoluted story that rewards careful listening – and a very fitting end to the current trilogy. 8/10