Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Land of the Dead

One of the nice things about these audio stories is it allows more stories to be told with certain short-lived Doctor/Companion tandems. Of the 5th Doctor's companions I always liked Nyssa the best, not that it's hard to see why. Tegan and Adric were always arguing with each other or the Doctor, complaining about their poor lot in life on the TARDIS, or just being otherwise annoying. Turlough was an interesting idea never really fully developed. I've always liked Peri a lot too, but she was only in two 5th Doctor stories on TV. Nyssa was smart, inquisitive, calm, and haunted by the tragedy that the Master bestowed upon her. I know that she was always a favorite of Peter Davison as well. Big Finish has done a lot of stories with this tandem, and they are one of my favorite TARDIS teams. There are also a really good number of excellent stories with this pair. Sadly, from a story standpoint, this pairing gets off to a bit of a slow start.

"The Land of the Dead" takes place in "present" day Alaska. The crux of the story is that an eccentric bazillionaire (Brett) has constructed this giant house made up of rooms built from extracting natural sections of the Alaskan frontier. Brett's father had been running an archaeological dig nearby years ago where there was some sort of cave in that killed a bunch of the native workers. This dig and the recent excavations for Brett's house unleashes some sort of ancient creatures (predating dinosaurs) that now threatens our heroes. The creatures seem to be nothing more than animated skeletons which have some remarkable energy field that allows them to be alive. The energy field also affects the minds of certain humans filling them with fear. Some other animals end up being mutated into monsters by the presence of these "Permians".

This story was a hasty replacement for Sylvester McCoy's first solo story "The Fearmonger" which had to be delayed due to McCoy being unavailable for recording. This left Stephen Cole a mere week to produce scripts for this fill in. All thing considered, he did a pretty good job. The story isn't bad, it just comes across as a bit bland to me. Nyssa and the Doctor are mostly split up for this story, which does give Nyssa plenty to do. She ends up in a philosophical debate with Tulong (whose father was among those killed in the dig tragedy from years  ago) about balancing spiritual traditions with the rational. The Doctor is saddled with the house's (conveniently British) interior designer Monica - who is clearly a surrogate Tegan. She comes off as sometimes amusing but more often annoying with her ceaseless babble and smart ass comments. The Doctor ultimately figures out how to deal with the creatures. In somewhat uncharacteristic fashion, he has no qualms about finishing these creatures off, but he does have plausible reasons.

Anyway, this one has never done much for me. It's not bad, but it just never engaged me much when I first head it, and my opinion hasn't changed today. Better things were to come for the Doctor and Nyssa (although not necessarily right away).

Rating: OK

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