The Sixth Doctor, Flip and Constance return for a new trilogy of adventures, starting with Cry of the Vultriss by Darren Jones. Last seen in the brilliant Static way back in 2017, the reunion of this particular TARDIS team has been long-awaited, particularly given the way we left Constance at the end of that adventure. After all this time, has Cry of the Vultriss been worth the wait? Read on to find out!
The TARDIS brings the Doctor, Flip and Constance to Cygia-Rema: a world inhabited by the bird-like Vultriss. They arrive just as the planet is about to have its first contact with another species, and the Doctor is shocked to find out that it’s one of his old enemies… the Ice Warriors! Add into the mix a deadly rip in space-time and an angry group of Vultriss rebels, and the TARDIS team have a lot to deal with in this story, which means the pace doesn’t slow even for a second.
Jones splits the TARDIS team up for most of the adventure, putting the Doctor (Colin Baker) and Flip (Lisa Greenwood) right in the middle of the action in the Vultriss city, and having Constance (Miranda Raison) fall in with the rebels out in the mountains. This leads to some great scenes between Baker and Greenwood (the two have such amazing chemistry), though I felt that this left Constance somewhat sidelined, particularly in the first two parts of the tale.
This was especially disappointing given the way we left her character in her last story, Static. Granted, this storyline isn’t ignored altogether, with it being addressed briefly at the start of the story, but I would have liked it to have been given a little more focus, especially given that we’ve had an almost three-year wait to hear what happens next!
Adele Lynch returns to the Doctor Who universe here, playing Ice Queen Vextyr, and she completely steals the show. Lynch was the best part of the otherwise-plodding Empress of Mars, where she also played an Ice Queen, so it was great to hear her back again here. Nicholas Briggs plays the rest of the Ice Warrior army, and does so with aplomb, giving them the signature hissing-seething voice that makes them so effective.
The titular Vultriss are an interesting new species, which Jones fleshes out well. He does some expert worldbuilding, using the story’s two-hour runtime to really develop Cygia-Rema and its inhabitants and packing in creative ideas like the rift-controlling crystals and the ostrich creatures ridden by the Vultriss. Natasha Cowley brings Vultriss Queen Skye to life effectively, embodying her moral dubiousness well, while Jo Burke gives a compelling performance as Chela .
While, overall, the Vultriss are handled very well, I found it odd that, as bird creatures, they sounded just the same as any human character might. I can’t help thinking it might have been worth applying some sort of effect to the Vultriss voices, just to really hammer home their alien-ness. This isn’t really a big deal, and certainly didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story, but I did have to keep reminding myself that Skye, Jabule et al. were supposed to be birds, not just regular people.
Sound design and music are handled here by Simon Power, and he does a fine job. From the rustling of the Vultriss’ wings to the sounds of the Ice Warriors’ sonic weapons, this is truly an aurally rich production from start to finish. Let me also take the time to mention the glorious cover artwork by Tom Webster: certainly one of the best covers I’ve seen in a while.
Cry of the Vultriss is a fairly strong story that thrives on its fast pace and big twists. Jones effectively builds the Vultriss and their culture, and writes well for the Ice Warriors, though I felt that this wasn’t the strongest story for the main cast. Ultimately, though, it’s great to hear the Doctor, Flip and Constance back together, and this, coupled with the story’s strong plotting, makes for a release that is, overall, effective. Recommended.
Cry of the Vultriss is available now on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com
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