Monday, July 9, 2012

The Spectre of Lanyon Moor

This story, which features the Sixth Doctor reuniting with the Brigadier, harkens back to the stories of the (awesome) Hinchcliffe/Holmes era. The prologue features an alien who fails to make it back to his ship before it takes off leaving him injured and stranded. You just know he is going to stir up trouble, right? In addition to reuniting Colin's Doctor with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, it's also the second story to feature Evelyn Smythe. So, lots of good elements here should make for a good story, right?

Right! The Doctor and Evelyn arrive in Cornwall (unintentionally, of course). There is some lovely banter between Evelyn and the Doctor as Evelyn notes the wonderful "wet bracken" landing spot the TARDIS has chosen. It feels like the Doctor and Evelyn have had a few other travels between "The Marian Conspiracy" and the start of this tale. The pair quickly meet the boisterously cheerful Mrs. Moynihan, while she's out walking her equally boisterous dogs. She lets them know where they are and directs them to the village of Pengriffen, while also informing the Doctor of an archaeological team investigating a nearby fogou. The Brigadier seems to be haging out with this archaeological team. Meanwhile, mysterious things start happening around Pengriffen and people begin encountering ghostly "imps" at night. Apparently, strange things have happened around the fogou for many, many years, which is why the Brig is "unofficially" there as an observer.

First things first, it's great to hear the 6th Doctor "meet" (or perhaps "reunite" is the right term) with the dear old Brig. One nice touch is the Brig immediately figures out who the Doctor is without any of the "Who the devil are you?... Oh, you've done it AGAIN Doctor!" you might expect. The story does a lot of splitting the Doctor and Evelyn up so they can have the Brig be his primary "companion". It's quite fun to hear how well the two work together. But, Evelyn isn't simply thrust aside. She manages to have a key role in the story. It's when she is sent to do some research in (the archaeological team's local benefactor) Sir Archibald Flint's library that we get to enjoy the spot on performance of James Bolam. He's just perfect as the elder English gentleman. He's just a little too mannerly, obliging, and helpful to Evelyn, and it doesn't take hard to suss him out as a villain. Just hearing his voice you know he would have fit right into an early Tom Baker story in a similar villainous role.

Also in the cast is Toby Longworth as Professor Morgan. Longworth is a pretty regular performer in these early Big Finish Doctor Who's. His character is the target of a classic, blistering rant from the Doctor when he gets fed up with his closed mindedness. But what really makes the rant work is when Evelyn cajoles the Doctor into apologizing to him later. The Doctor does offer a sincere olive branch to the Professor - if not an outright apology - and it's another shining example of how Big Finish didn't alter the character of the 6th Doctor, but just nudged it a bit more likeable. Since it's been the better part of a decade since I first heard these it's hard to remember exactly when and how my attitudes towards certain characters in Doctor Who really began to change, but I am sure by this point, I was thawing towards Colin Baker's Doctor quite a bit. I am absolutely sure I was already falling in love with Evelyn. She gets put through the ringer in this story: witnessing a terrifying death, being captured by Flint (and then escaping on her own), and then bravely going back to try to stop him from his mad schemes. How could anyone not love Evelyn with such a strong start in her first two stories?

The story ends with the trapped alien finally getting his ship back, and being denied vengeance against his brother for leaving him abandoned on the Earth for thousands of years decides to take revenge on the planet he was imprisoned on. It's a mild surprise when it's the Brig who ends up saving the day, and not the Doctor. It's really a heartwarming moment. This may not be my favorite of the earliest Big Finish stories, but it's a great one. It's also probably the one I would recommend a classic TV Who fan start with if they want to ease in gently to the audio format. It really does feel like I could have watched this one on TV as a kid.

Rating: Great

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