REVIEW | The Fifth Doctor Adventures: Conflicts of Interest

For the Fifth Doctor’s first release of 2023, we slip into the gap between Arc of Infinity and Mawdryn Undead for two new adventures starring Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton. Unusually, these tales are three-parters, about 90 minutes long apiece, a structural quirk that has the benefit of giving us more time to explore the world of each story, without any of the padding that four-parters often have.

The set opens with John Dorney‘s Friendly Fire, which sees the Doctor travel to a dusty mining planet in the hope of meeting his old friend, Velar. But Velar is nowhere to be found, and the town’s hostile marshal, Reno (Alice Krige), seems to be hiding something. Soon, the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa are on the run for their lives as Reno and her minions hunt them down in an effort to keep secret their terrible deeds.

This story is quite a sombre affair, revelling in slower, tension building scenes rather than all-out action and explosions. This means it feels quite different from your regular Big Finish story, though whether that’s a positive or a negative will depend entirely on what flavour of Doctor Who you most prefer. I’m definitely a fan of darker stories, but I must say that this was almost a little too grim at times- it felt a like a series of bad things happening happening just to show us ‘humans can do bad things too’, which is a pretty bleak message to come away from a story with. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting, fresh-feeling listen with some nice performances from the regulars and a star turn from Alice Krige.

I’d definitely recommend listening to the bonus Interlude included with the download before starting this story. Read by Dan Starkey and written by Big Finish newcomer Frazer Lee, it’s called Gobbledegook and sees the Doctor visit Velar before the events of Friendly Fire. While the plot is a little too thin to justify the hour-long runtime, it’s a charming story, well-written and narrated, and it adds a much-needed emotional dimension to Friendly Fire, so much so that I’d argue you really shouldn’t listen to one without the other.

The second story in the set, The Edge of the War by Jonathan Barnes, takes us to France in the summer of 1936, where the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan find themselves caught up in a mystery. None of them can seem to remember how they got there, and ethereal apparitions have been appearing at the village’s fortification. Might the mysterious Count (Alistair Petrie), hidden away in his chateau, be to blame?

This is an even slower-paced story than Friendly Fire, really taking its time to set up the mystery and each character’s role in it. The side characters are quite thinly-written, but Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton are on sizzling form, perfectly capturing the Doctor and friends’ bewilderment at the situation they’ve found themselves in. Fielding is particularly impressive, especially towards the end of the piece.

None of the stories here will set the world on fire, but it’s nice to have some continuity-free, slower-paced episodes with less of a focus on action and adventure and more on tension building and atmosphere. Despite the more relaxed pacing, however, there’s a surprising lack of heart in these stories; there’s little to no character work, and both end on quite a downbeat, even depressing, note. Again, if that’s the kind of story you enjoy, this is probably right up your street. For someone like me, though, who thinks even the darkest Doctor Who stories should have a little charm and warmth, these tales might leave you a little cold.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Conflicts of Interest is available on CD or as a download from


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