Monday, 28 September 2015
Main Range 004. The Land of the Dead by Stephen Cole (January 2000)
Let’s look at one of those good pitch ideas: the Permians. The central conceit is a very good one: primordial, evolving creatures emerging out of fossil and earth and natural elements upwards toward the finest human dwelling money can buy. There’s a mythical dimension to this which is very appealing; the tension between tradition and progress is an important theme, and a strong one. But again, Cole doesn’t do all that much with them. The creatures absorbing the people they devour is great, but it doesn’t feel the true horror of it is ever delivered on. That said, I do like the resolution of fire – an ancient material to fight an ancient threat.
Similarly with the characters: their back history is rather impressively well thought out, but that doesn’t make it interesting. Monica is Tegan-lite, and while that gives Davison excellent material to bounce off it doesn’t make her intrinsically interesting. The other characters never stand out especially – and oh God, those American accents!
The story’s opening sound-bites about Alaska are a tad obvious but the Fifth Doctor doing his history lesson mode gets a thumbs up from me. I like it when the Doctor gets to be all knowledgeable and show-offy, and Davison doesn’t always get as many opportunities to do this. The Fifth Doctor/Nyssa dynamic is a very pleasant one, and I wish we had seen more of this on TV; I certainly look forward to future audios with these two: an intelligent, open-minded duo who get on. Nyssa’s reference to her father’s death is a nice touching moment, one she rarely got on the main show.
So overall, one with potential that ultimately doesn’t go as far as it should. Doctor Who on TV can do better, certainly, but even four stories in, I already know Big Finish can do better themselves.
“Strangers?”/“…only until we’ve been introduced.”
“How is a fossilised skeleton moving about without flesh and blood to clothe it?” – an extremely Doctor Whoish line, the sort of line you just know the writer revelled in when they thought of it!
“It’s still alive?”/“Unsettling, isn’t it?” Ditto here.The Permians’ weakness – synthetic material – is memorable enough, and the scene where they throw paint on it is a good one.