No surprise as to the villain in this story as the Doctor’s old Gallifreyan friend-cum-foe the Rani makes her first Big Finish appearance (it’s not her first audio – that distinction goes to the BBV audio The Rani Reaps the Whirlwind, which perhaps not surprisingly isn’t referenced here, even if Gary Russell’s Divided Loyalties is!).
Let’s deal with the recasting/regeneration straightaway: Siobhan Redmond’s new incarnation is clearly enough the not-quite-sane scientist that Kate O’Mara so memorably created, but she’s just that little bit sharper, slightly less camp and less prone to melodrama (although, to be fair to Ms O’Mara, that could also be because the script is by Justin Richards rather than the Bakers). I’ll be very interested to see how things pan out in a story written from the start for this incarnation, rather than adapted from a script intended for the original.
Richards wisely keeps the Rani on the same track that she’s been on in all her TV appearances, and maintains the difference between her and the Master that The Mark of the Rani made so clear. There’s a certain irony in light of the end of Peter Capaldi’s first season that a cliffhanger is based on Peri deducing her identity because she’s the only female Time Lord that the young botany student has met! It’s perhaps a little unfortunate that the whole story is based around possession – as Nicola Bryant points out in the CD extras, this has been a hallmark of Peri’s time, not just on TV, where people wanted to possess her, but also on audio. Let’s perhaps not have this again for Peri? Ever? There’s also a little bit of foreshadowing dropped casually into a scene between the Doctor and the Rani that isn’t picked up on by the end of the story, that suggests a darker tone may be coming to the next set of these adventures…
It’s always good to have some new voices appear in a Big Finish story, and director Ken Bentley has cast this story very well – there are strong performances across the board, and you are never in any doubt when changes have occurred in the characterisation (something which also applies to Nicola Bryant, whose episode three performance is very nicely judged).
Verdict: A strong welcome back for the Rani, and an enjoyable conclusion to this trilogy of adventures. 8/10