Tuesday, November 20, 2012


This is writer Lance Parkin's first Big Finish Doctor Who story, though he's written several Who novels both before and after this story's release. It serves as both a sequel and prequel to the TV story "Keeper of Traken": taking place after the events of that story for the Doctor and Nyssa, but being set thousands of years before those events on the planet itself. Apparently, it's a bit of a polarizing one, as Doctor Who Magazine once said it was the worst 5th Doctor audio ever! I like it fine, though it's no classic. It is a nice idea to explore a familiar alien planet's history for a change. Although, I could have done without the dialog between the Doctor and Nyssa where they hammer the point home for the listeners. Yes, we get it Big Finish!

The more interesting aspects of the story center around poking holes in the utopian Traken paradise and probing some various moral ambiguities. Traken is supposed to be the most wonderful, harmonious place in the universe. It's leaders (Consulars) however, are almost xenophobic and are ready to execute Nyssa, just so her "evil corruption" from being away from home doesn't spread! It's also laughable when the Consulars try to switch sides at the end when their planet is seemingly conquered. On the other hand, the soldiers serving the villainous Kwundaar seem to do terrible acts by his command, but they don't see themselves as evil. They're just following the will of their God - a God that will absolve them of their sins. While their religious justifications for their actions ring hollow (no surprise there) you tend to like their leader, Narthex, much more than the useless Consuls of Traken. He's a man providing for a family he clearly loves dearly. His conversation with his daughter prior to their invasion of Traken is actually quite sweet.

Kwundaar makes for an interesting villain. Throughout the story they give plenty of evidence that he is "godlike" in his power since he can completely read minds across time and space. He even can conquer the Doctor's natural psychic defenses. It does make the ending where the Doctor tricks him seem a bit unlikely, since in theory he would see the Doctor's plan ahead of time, but we'll just pretend he was too busy trying to take control of the source to notice. While this is on its face a Nyssa story, since she spends much of the story being ill, she really ends up not doing a whole lot in this story, other than being duped by the Doctor so she can unwittingly help him defeat Kwundaar. Disappointingly, we never get a very good explanation of who or what Kwundaar is. We just get a vague explanation from him that he is one of other "immortal beings". It's a cute touch at the end where the Doctor explains that other such creatures may be after them now due to Kwundaar signalling them somehow, thereby explaining the appearance of Omega, the Mara, and the Black Guardian in the 20th television season!

So, Primeval isn't brilliant or without some holes, but it's still pretty entertaining. It is fun trying to figure out how the Doctor is going to defeat a villain who can always know ahead of time what he's planning. When the villain inexplicably doesn't see the trick coming, it's a bit of a let down. Still, it is fun to get another go on Traken (unlike some, I really always enjoyed "Keeper of Traken" (Geoffrey Beavers' Master was terrifying to me as a kid), and it's amusing that Parkin gives us an explanation for Nyssa's psychic powers in "Time Flight" and her passing out at the end of "Four to Doomsday". The 5th Doctor and Nyssa are a great combination and Davison and Sutton's chemistry help make their stories more entertaining.

Rating: Good

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