After the brilliant Time Apart last month, the Fifth Doctor returns in Thin Time/Madquake, a brand new two-part story from Big Finish. This time he’s not alone, though, with Tegan, Nyssa and Marc returning for the first time since they left the Doctor in last year’s Conversion. Read on for my thoughts on each episode!
“Thin Time” by Dan Abnett
Thin Time by Dan Abnett is the first of the two stories in this release, and sees the Fifth Doctor, still travelling alone, arrive at a house on Halloween where something very strange is happening. Falling in with the inhabitants of the house, the Doctor discovers that something evil is threatening to break through a patch of so-called “thin time” to invade our universe. It’s a great mystery story with a satisfying conclusion that constantly keeps you guessing. There’s also a gorgeous little twist towards the end that put a smile on my face; a real treat for Doctor Who fans.
In intimate stories like this, set in one location and taking place pretty much in real time, it’s important that the various characters in the piece make a strong impression, and this is absolutely the case in Thin Time. While Zaqi Ismail and Wilf Scolding give great performances as Hobshaw and Crookshap respectively, Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo is definitely the standout cast member, making psuedo-companion Mrs. Polly remarkably compelling for such a short story.
The Doctor also gets some deft character work here, heightened by the absence of Tegan, Nyssa and Mafc. As Peter Davison points out in the behind the scenes feature, it’s always interesting to hear the Doctor play off against people other than his companions, so to hear his interactions with Mrs Polly, Hobshaw and Crookshap here is a welcome change from the usual dynamic.
Overall, this is a really compelling tale, perfectly suited to the two-part format. With a constantly-intriguing plot, great side characters and a sweet little cameo at the end of the story, Thin Time is a strong start to this release.
“Madquake” by Guy Adams
Madquake, by Guy Adams, picks up on the ending of last year’s Conversion, finding Nyssa, Tegan and Marc still on Callanna waiting for the Doctor to return. The first part of this story is light on incident but absolutely packed with really strong character development for all three companions. Each of them reacts very differently to the Doctor’s disappearance, making for some great scenes between the three characters as they come to terms with what’s happened.
While the other companions are both given some really nice moments in this first half, with Tegan being unnerved by Callanna after the events of Kinda and Nyssa lashing out at the situation, the strongest development here goes to Marc. After being partially converted into a Cyberman during his last appearance, we find him in the midst of a mental health crisis, despairing at how his programming has stripped away his humanity. Thoughtful scripting from Guy Adams combined with a powerful performance from George Watkins makes this the strongest showing for the character yet.
The first part of Madquake also introduces us to Cott and Mison, the two main guest characters of the story. Played by Kate Isitt and Raj Ghatak respectively, not only do these characters help to develop Nyssa, Tegan and Marc, but they have fully-formed story arcs of their own, making them into fully rounded people rather than just plot devices.
At the end of the first part of Madquake, the main threat of this story rears its bulbous green head… the Slitheen are back! It’s fantastic to hear these iconic villains in a classic era story, and, while they’re up to their usual tricks (unzipping foreheads and destroying planets to make money), there’s also some interesting new ground covered with them.
The sound design and music in this story are truly some of the best I’ve ever heard from Big Finish. Rob Harvey brings to life the story’s action with all kinds of brilliant sound effects (spaceships, Slitheen unzipping themselves, underwater sequences) with flair, but also underscores the quieter moments with some really great music. I’ve got the isolated score on as I’m writing this, and it’s truly amazing, so be sure to give it a listen!
Overall, this story is a great way to bring the Doctor’s companions back into the fold, while also pleasing fans with the return of the Slitheen. If it weren’t for the slightly rushed resolution, I wouldn’t hesitate to give this a perfect score. Fantastic stuff!
With powerful development for all four lead characters, compellingly written and performed guest characters and a creative return for the Slitheen, Thin Time/Madquake is a standout release in this year’s Monthly Adventures range. After this, I’m beyond excited to see where this storyline goes next! Highly recommended.
Thin Time/Madquake is available now on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com