The Sixth Doctor and Peri return in Plight of the Pimpernel, the latest instalment of the Doctor Who Monthly Range from Big Finish. Written by Chris Chapman, who also wrote the stellar Scorched Earth from earlier in the year (review here), this story sees the Doctor (Colin Baker) take on the role of the Scarlet Pimpernel, saving the French élite from the clutches of Madame Guillotine.
From here, the story goes in so many different directions. We get Peri posing as an aristocrat’s wife back in England; a ruthless revolutionary, Donat (brought to life with a sinister performance from Anthony Howell), hunting the Pimpernel down; a sword-wielding robot (Stewart Clarke); a trip to an alien planet; and even the real Scarlet Pimpernel, played by Jamie Parker! But how can there be a real Pimpernel if he a fictional character? The explanation is not what you’d expect…
Despite all these disparate plots and characters, Plight of the Pimpernel never becomes confused or overcomplicated. Chapman perfectly balances each element of the story, bringing everything together in an exciting and satisfying way by the end.
The Doctor and Peri are given some of the best characterisation they’ve ever seen in this story. Hearing Colin Baker take on the role of the Pimpernel is one of the highlights of the story, and so is his furious confrontation with the villain of the piece in the final part. Chapman truly gives Baker some incredibly compelling material here, and he more than rises to the challenge in his performance. Meanwhile, Nicola Bryant gets to use her native English accent for much of the story, as part of Peri’s disguise as Lady Blakeney, while also having some great new material for her character to deal with towards the end of the story.
Andy Hardwick‘s sound design is marvellous throughout. From Parisian crowds to the sizzling sword of the Z22, every sound effect adds to the thrilling atmosphere of the story, really elevating Chapman’s script.
Plight of the Pimpernel, like Scorched Earth, is one of the highlights of the Doctor Who monthly range, not only for this year, but overall. Strongly plotted and with great characterisation bolstered by consistent performances, there’s very little to complain about here. Full of complex ideas about morality, but also incredibly fun, this story strikes the perfect balance and, as such, comes very highly recommended.
Doctor Who: Plight of the Pimpernel is now available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com