After the shocking events of last year’s Fifth Doctor trilogy, Peter Davison returns in Time Apart, a four-part anthology release dealing with the fallout from Warzone/Conversion. Having loved all three of those stories, I’m incredibly excited to dive into some more Fifth Doctor. Read on for my thoughts!
1. “Ghost Station” by Steve Lyons
Ghost Station by Steve Lyons opens the anthology, seeing the Doctor arrive in an abandoned underground station in Berlin during the time of the Berlin Wall. There, he meets Peter Meier (Timothy Blore), a guard who has just found a body on the platform. What follows is a story light on incident but heavy with atmosphere, which is created not only through Lyons’ evocative script, but also Wilfredo Acosta‘s haunting music and sound design.
The Doctor and Peter are the only two characters in the piece, and there’s no real alien threat to speak of, making for a pleasingly intimate story that thrives on small moments between the actors. This means that, while we don’t get to physically explore the story’s social and temporal setting, given that the entire piece is set in the titular train station, we do get a fairly thorough look at how living in such circumstances have affected Peter.
As a history student specialising in the Cold War myself, I felt Lyons did a great job at portraying the mood of oppression and division that hung over Berlin during this time, though part of me wishes we could have had a full story set during this period. Something for the future, maybe?
Overall, Ghost Station is a fairly strong opener to the anthology, with atmospheric sound design, strong performances and an intriguing twist.
2. “The Bridge Master” by Jacqueline Rayner
The next story, The Bridge Master by Jacqueline Rayner, opens with a bang, with the Doctor being taken away by the mysterious titular character mere moments after stepping out of the TARDIS. Finding his shadow sacrificed to protect a newly-constructed bridge, the Doctor sets out to learn the truth about the Bridge Master.
The Doctor is joined on this adventure by Agatha, a villager who becomes suspicious about the Bridge Master and his motives. Played by Kate Harbour, Agatha is an interesting pseudo-companion figure with an impressive amount of moral complexity for such a short story. The Bridge Master himself, Clement, is played by Wayne Forrester, who does a great job at playing the villain without making the character too one-dimensional.
Wilfredo Acosta‘s sound design here was once again very impressive. There are a couple of jumpscare moments that were particularly effective, with the shrieking of the spirits guarding the bridge coming out of nowhere to terrify the listener.
Overall, The Bridge Master is another good story, thriving on its intriguing set-up, but perhaps in need of a slightly longer runtime to be truly satisfying.
3. “What Lurks Down Under” by Tommy Donbavand
What Lurks Down Under is the third story in the anthology. Written by the late Tommy Donbavand, this episode sees the Doctor arrive on a prison ship bound for Australia. Meeting Mary Wade, a prisoner, he discovers that, after reeling in some very strange fish, the crewmembers on the boat have all become catatonic zombies. He therefore sets out with Mary to discover the truth about what lurks down under…
Laura Aikman plays Mary, and does a fantastic job bringing the character to life. I found her fascinating because, not only does she take on a pseudo-companion role, but also becomes a sort of pseudo-Doctor, being the one to solve the problem. It’s a real shame she doesn’t go with the Doctor at the end of this story, because I think she’d make a great companion.
Overall, What Lurks Down Under is the strongest story in this set, thriving on both the great interplay between the Doctor and Mary and the compelling plot.
4. “The Dancing Plague” by Kate Thorman
The last story, The Dancing Plague by Kate Thorman, is the shortest in the set, running at just 20 minutes. As the title suggests, it takes place during the dancing plague of 1518 in Strasbourg, a bout of mass hysteria that saw the people of the town begin to dance uncontrollably. It’s a great premise for a story, but the short length means that it’s not really very developed.
Overall, though, this is a satisfying story with strong performances and sound design and a fine way to end a strong anthology.
All in all, Time Apart is a lovely collection of four really well-written historical stories. None of these tales will blow your mind, but they’re all well-told, with strong performances from the cast and great sound design and music. Recommended.
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Time Apart is available now on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com