It’s been a year, but we’re finally rejoining the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Marc as their series of adventures finally comes to a close! Having rated each of the previous instalments in this arc either four or (a very rare!) five stars, I’m thrilled that we finally have a conclusion to this wonderful collection of stories, which has given this particular TARDIS team arguably the best character development in their entire history. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at The Lost Resort and Other Stories, as this TARDIS team take their final few adventures together…
1. “The Lost Resort” by A.K. Benedict
Picking up directly after the events of last year’s Madquake, A.K. Benedict‘s The Lost Resort takes the Fifth Doctor and friends to the planet Soresia, home to the famous Welkin Sanatorium. This will be the perfect place for the team to recover (both physically and mentally) after their recent ordeals, and for them to finally talk about the horrors they’ve recently experienced. But, as usual with the TARDIS’s choice of destination, things aren’t quite right on Soresia…
The Lost Resort is an undeniably slowly-paced story, but the many, many gorgeous character moments peppered throughout means that its lack of frenetic action scenes has absolutely no bearing on just how fantastic it story is. As I’ve said before, this series of adventures has been some of the best material the Fifth Doctor and his companions have ever received, and this story is absolutely no exception.
Not only do we get some exploration of Nyssa, Tegan and Marc’s feelings at having been abandoned by the Doctor at the end of 2019’s Conversion– with the story echoing TV episodes Heaven Sent and Hell Bent in exploring the Doctor’s duty of care towards his companions, and their feelings about the subordinate, inferior position they feel it puts them in- but we also finally get some closure about Adric’s death, which was largely ignored after having occurred way back in 1982’s Earthshock.
It’s no secret that Matthew Waterhouse crops up in The Lost Resort as Adric, and what a fantastic return he makes to the role. This is one of those times that bringing back an old character is absolutely justified, with Benedict writing some heartbreaking scenes wherein the Doctor finally airs his true feelings on the death of his loyal companion. Waterhouse and Peter Davison put in a powerhouse performances, their scenes together tugging at the heartstrings throughout, and culminating in a real tearjerker of a farewell in the final part of the story.
The fantastic character work here isn’t only limited to the regulars, however, with Benedict populating the story’s setting with a wide variety of compellingly written-and-performed side characters. Julia Sandiford brings to life the gloriously quirky service robot Fabrico, while Anna Barry excels as the wizened Aether Beauregard, and Clare Louise Connolly brings plenty of pathos as robotic little boy Thad. Glen McCready also impresses in his dual role as Franco and Luchino.
My only complaint about this story (though I’m still giving it full marks) is that, while the Doctor gets his much-needed closure RE: Adric, Nyssa and Tegan don’t really interact with him all that much during the story. They do share a few lines, of course, but it would have been nice to see a little more from them; after all, everyone lost Adric, not just the Doctor.
Overall, though, this is a truly fantastic piece of work, with A.K. Benedict‘s stellar script being perfectly brought to life by an electric cast, and complemented by some truly emotive music from Rob Harvey. Almost flawless.
2. “The Perils of Nellie Bly” by Sarah Ward
From emotional introspection to a fun, celebrity historical romp, the next story in the set is The Perils of Nellie Bly, by Sarah Ward. Arriving on the RMS Oceanic as it makes it approach to San Francisco, the TARDIS team encounter miss Nellie Bly (Sydney Feder), famed explorer who, in 1890, sought to beat the record set by (the fictional) Phileas Fogg and travel the world in less than 80 days. The Doctor and friends soon discover that there’s a saboteur aboard, however, one who will stop at nothing to make sure that Nellie doesn’t achieve her goal.
This is definitely a far lighter story than The Lost Resort, with none of the emotional angst or heartbreak we saw there, but that by no means makes this a bad story. It’s just wonderful to hear the Doctor and his companions having a less serious adventure, after a series of quite intense stories full of tension and turmoil. Tegan in particular gets some nice moments with the titular character, as Ward explores how attitudes towards women have changed (and, indeed, stayed the same) over the years, while Peter Davison clearly relishes playing a Doctor who’s a bit more mischievous here.
Sydney Feder is great as Nellie Bly, bringing what could have been an over-the-top character to life with a nicely grounded performance. Bly herself is a really fantastic character for Doctor Who to explore: one of those figures from history that you’re surprised the show hasn’t covered before. It’s a bit of a shame The Perils of Nellie Bly is only a two-parter, because there’s so much more about the eponymous explorer that could have been discussed; the brief mention of her work exposing the conditions in women’s asylums was tantalising, and would have been ripe for exploration in a full story.
Overall, this is a strong story that revels in the fun atmosphere it creates. There are a lot of great audio set pieces (the particular highlight being a train sequence brought to life evocatively by Rob Harvey‘s sound design) and some nice character moments throughout. Good stuff.
3. “Nightmare of the Daleks” by Martyn Waites
And here we have it: the end of the line for the TARDIS team of the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Marc. Nightmare of the Daleks by Martyn Waites is the final instalment in this series of adventures, and takes the crew to the planet XB93, where the crew of a remote drilling rig have been encountering one of the Doctor’s oldest enemies in their dreams. Yes, the Daleks are back… and this time they’re invading our nightmares.
This is a peculiar story to review. I’m writing this immediately after listening to it and… I can’t remember much about it. It’s definitely not anything bad, or offensive, but from the plot to the guest characters, a lot about this story is just quite forgettable. The whole central concept of the Daleks invading nightmares is fantastic, don’t get me wrong, and a really nice change from the norm, but in a story as short as this, I didn’t feel that it really got explored all that much. I also thought that the plot was slightly too similar to The Lost Resort (a facility full of the dispossessed encountering ghostly figures), so maybe that soured my experience.
What I loved about this story was its ending. While I won’t go into details about Marc’s exit, suffice it to say it’s beautifully bittersweet, and unique as companion departures go. It might have been nice to have given Marc a little more focus in his final story, but George Watkins‘ heartfelt performance in his final scene is just wonderful. As with The Lost Resort, I have no shame in admitting that the ending of this story made me feel rather emotional, and Waites should be praised for that.
Ultimately, however, it’s only this ending, and the aforementioned creative use of the Daleks, that elevates Nightmare of the Daleks above average for me. Definitely not one to avoid, but, when compared to The Lost Resort and The Perils of Nellie Bly, this was definitely a bit weak.
It’s been a long time coming, but the so-called Marc Arc has finally come to a close… and what a conclusion! From the gut-punching emotion of The Lost Resort and Nightmare of the Daleks, to the swashbuckling adventure of The Perils of Nellie Bly, this set has something for everyone, but will be particularly special for fans of the Fifth Doctor, who have been clamouring for an emotional resolution to Adric’s death since, well, the 1980s. The cast are on top form throughout, all getting their standout moments, and cementing this as one of the most well-rounded TARDIS teams in Doctor Who history. It’s such a shame that this particular chapter in the Fifth Doctor’s adventures is over, as we say goodbye to the wonderful George Watkins as Marc, and producer/director Scott Handcock, but it’s safe to say that this entire run of stories, starting with 2019’s Tartarus, will be remembered as some of the best material this particular Doctor and his companions have ever had. Highly recommended.
The Lost Resort and Other Stories is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com