This is one of the more unusual main range stories from Big Finish in recent times: we’ve had the epic multi-Time Lord fest of the Masters trilogy, and the powerful Peterloo Massacre, but this one – at least initially – is very much a caper piece, filled with Hustle-like cons, impersonations and cries of “Doughnut!”. But then a very Lovecraftian monster makes an appearance, and the satirical edge is blunted as the Doctor and his friends have to sort the situation out, and ensure that everything falls into place as it needs to. And then on top of that there’s the reintroduction of Melanie Bush…
Bonnie Langford’s Mel has had depth added to her in her Big Finish stories with both Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, and writer Matt Fitton builds on that here, setting up an interesting dynamic with Sophie Aldred’s Ace, as well as redefining the relationship between her and the Doctor. None of the characters are the same as they were when they were all briefly together on Iceworld (although Ace does seem to be written in her two most recent appearances as a less mature version than the one who travelled with Hex), and I’m hoping that this will form the grounding of the other stories in this trilogy (and beyond if Mel isn’t put back in place at the end).
Ken Bentley handles the many differing moods of the piece well, and Ginny Holder gives a strong performance as Gloria (seeming at times to be channelling Alex Kingston’s River Song!) with Harry Myers and John Banks providing multiple voices, and Des McAleer and Stephen Hagan delivering the script’s sometimes deliberately clichéd lines with gusto. The sound design is also different from the standard Who, with the background occasionally more “in your face” (okay, in your ear!) than you might expect, which helps with the heightened reality feel of much of the story.
Verdict: A mix of styles that provides an unusual tale. 8/10