REVIEW: “Tartarus”

A new Fifth Doctor trilogy begins with Tartarus, which not only introduces a new companion to travel alongside the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan, but also crosses over with one of the Big Finish Originals: Cicero.

I must admit I’ve not yet heard Cicero, but as a student of Roman history myself, I’m incredibly eager to, especially after hearing this release! Read on to see my thoughts.

Tartarus begins with the Doctor (Peter Davison), Tegan (Janet Fielding) and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) arriving at the home of Cicero (Samuel Barnett), where a party is being held. The celebrations are soon interrupted, however, by strange lights in the sky and a huge earthquake, which inexplicably transports everyone to a mystical world.

The story that follows is an exciting, Hartnell-esque quest across many landscapes and terrains to find the three keys that will help our heroes get back home. Facing many enemies, including dragons, wolf-men and the Minotaur, the Doctor and friends attempt to uncover the truth behind this strange world.

Writer David Llewellyn characterises the main cast incredibly well. The Doctor is brave, Nyssa is smart and Tegan stands up for what she believes in. There’s some great development for them all too, with the Doctor facing the consequences of an earlier adventure and Nyssa and Tegan coming to terms with the outdated practices of Ancient Rome.

The main trio are joined on their adventure by the famous lawyer and Roman consul Cicero, whose nuances are brought to life excellently by Samuel Barnett, and by resourceful slave Marc (George Watkins), the latter of whom joins the TARDIS team at the end and will carry through the remaining two releases in the trilogy. Watkins, who happens to be Peter Davison’s nephew, gives a compelling first performance as Marc, and I can’t wait to see how the character develops over the next four stories.

Tracy Ann Oberman features as Tartarus, a most interesting character around whom the story revolves. Her performance here is a far cry from the ruthless, assertive Yvonne Hartman, but is just as powerful.

The sound design in this story is handled by Robert Harvey, who does an excellent job bringing to life volcanoes, earthquakes, strange creatures and more. Overall, this is an incredibly tight production, directed brilliantly by Scott Handcock in his first story as producer of the Fifth Doctor range, and a strong start to a new trilogy of Fifth Doctor stories.

Thoroughly recommended.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Tartarus is available on CD or as a download from

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