What better story for Christmas time than an adventure set on a snowy mountain featuring terrifying abominable snowmen? The Seventh Doctor and Ace return in The Grey Man of the Mountain by Lizbeth Myles: December’s second Doctor Who Monthly Range release, which also sees them cross paths with their old friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart! But is this story destined for the naughty list or the nice list? Read on to find out!
The Grey Man of the Mountain is simple but effective, telling the story of a trek up Ben MacDui and an encounter with mysterious grey creatures. There are no major subplots, no timey-wimey shenanigans: this is just a straightforward, well-told story. Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred return as the Seventh Doctor and Ace, and put in suitably strong performances throughout. There’s nothing mind-blowing for either of their characters here, though it’s nice to hear the more mature Ace from early Big Finish stories, rather than her bombastic TV persona.
The standout cast member here has to be Jon Culshaw. I’ve heard snippets of his Brigadier performance before, like his cameo in The Legacy of Time, but this is my first full story with him… and I’m very impressed. Not only does Culshaw sound so much like Nicholas Courtney it’s uncanny, but he also puts his own spin on the role, making it far more than just an impression. It’s so great that such an iconic character can continue to have adventures with the Doctor through Culshaw and, while I know there are some people out there who are against recasting, after this I’m all for it.
Another strong performance comes from Lucie Goldie as Kirsty. The Doctor and Ace are split up for much of this story, and Katy pairs off with the latter, taking her up Ben MacDui in search of the Grey Man. She’s instantly likable and has a great rapport with Ace, even serving as a bit of a love interest for her. It’s always great to have this kind of representation in Doctor Who, and even better when the performance is so good and the writing so believable.
Sound design and music are tackled here by Benji Clifford, who does an amazing job. His bagpipe-esque score is fantastic, while the howling, snowy soundscape he creates for Ben MacDui really helps to set the scene. Meanwhile, Ryan Aplin‘s cover artwork is similarly brilliant, and incredibly evocative of the story.
This story is, overall, a great success. While it may not be mindblowing stuff, its simplicity is what makes it appealing. Everyone involved puts in a strong performance. In summary, this is a perfect wintertime story for anyone who wants to kick back and listen to some reliable Doctor Who. Recommended.
The Grey Man of the Mountain is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com