RETRO REVIEW | Doctor Who: The Spectre of Lanyon Moor

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We’re continuing our journey through the Sixth Doctor’s early adventures at Big Finish with The Spectre of Lanyon Moor! Read on for our thoughts on Old Sixie and Evelyn’s second adventure, and their first encounter with the Brigadier!


The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Evelyn to Lanyon Moor in Cornwall, where they soon discover an ancient fogou: a type of underground tunnel built in the Iron Age. With Evelyn discovering a strange stone, the travellers head to the nearby town of Pengriffen where they bump into the Doctor’s old friend Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart (Nicholas Courtney). It turns out he’s come to Cornwall on secret business, to investigate sightings of strange, ghostly imps on the moor. Could this have something to do with Evelyn’s discovery in the fogou? And what is Sir Archibald Flint (James Bolam), Pengriffen’s very own baronet, hiding in the basement of his mansion?

As you can probably gather from all that, Nicholas Pegg certainly knows how to craft an intriguing premise, and I’m happy to report that the story itself is just as good. A delightful slice of rural fantasia seeped in the supernatural, The Spectre of Lanyon Moor is a relatively simple tale, but it’s full of well-rounded characters, fantastic twists and a general sense of evocative atmosphere that it’s a pleasure to listen to from start to finish.

Sadly, this is Colin Baker and Nicholas Courtney‘s only audio story together, with the Brigadier and the Sixth Doctor meeting here for the very first time. The actors have strong chemistry, while Pegg writes the characters as having a far less tumultuous relationship than that between the Brig and, say, the Third Doctor, which makes a nice change from the exasperated bickering that we’re used to between them. While Baker and Courtney spend most of the story together, Maggie Stables as Evelyn gets to head out on her own for some good old-fashioned investigation, cementing her as the perfect fit for the Doctor’s adventuring lifestyle and further rounding her character after her debut in The Marian Conspiracy.

Baker, Courtney and Stables are joined by a fantastic guest cast, who bring Pegg’s rich script to life with flair. As previously mentioned, James Bolam stars as Sir Archibald Flint, whose unhinged experiments lead to some sizzling scenes with Evelyn, while Barnaby Edwards portrays compelling young archaeologist Philip Ludgate, and Helen Goldwyn brings to life a variety of characters, from a Greek museum guide to an ill-fated hiker.

The star cast members, though, have to be Susan Jameson as Mrs. Moynihan, a really interesting character with lots of hidden layers and secret motivations, and Toby Longworth as stranded alien imp Sancreda, whose savage and sometimes homicidal will to survive he embodies perfectly. Both characters serve as the villains of the piece, and add suitable menace to our heroes throughout.

Sound design here is handled by Alistair Lock, and it’s on the same high level as the script. He brings the sweeping emptiness of Lanyon Moor to life well, while also handling some more ambitious scenes like a shattering window of stained glass, and Sancreda’s fight with a pack of wild dogs. The highlight, though, has got to be a scene in the fourth episode, where Mrs. Moynihan gets her particularly brutal comeuppance. Lock’s sound design, as well as Jameson’s performance, really made me sit up there.


Final Thoughts

Overall, The Spectre of Lanyon Moor is a very strong story indeed. The entire cast is on fire; Pegg’s script is simple, but captivating and well-paced; and the whole adventure has a really delightful almost-Gothic atmosphere about it. This story may have come out 21 years ago now, but it still holds up today, giving us a long-awaited reunion between the Sixth Doctor and the Brigadier, and showing off just how good of a character Evelyn Smythe is. Almost perfect.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Spectre of Lanyon Moor is available now as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com

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