Friday, June 6, 2014
After our last disastrous story, this is a little more like it. "The Sandman" is a pretty unique tale (later copied by new Who) exploring the idea of a civilization (not an evil one) who is terrified of and reviles the Doctor. To the reptilian Galyari, the Doctor is their deepest fear. He is literally a figure of terror embedded into their genetic psyche. The tale takes place in a pretty awesome setting, "The Clutch". The Clutch is a massive fleet of spaceships of various origin, slowly (sub warp/light speed) migrating across the galaxy. I love this idea of a group of "space gypsies" made up of all kinds of different aliens travelling together in (mostly) harmony. When Galyari start to be killed off in gruesome fashion with they reptilian skins removed form their corpses, the victims naturally know who to blame - The Doctor! He is the horrendous "Sandman" who is the most frightful monster the Galyari ever encountered!
Of course a couple years after these murders begin, the Doctor and Evelyn show up. It's a fun setup to have the Doctor come back to check up on the species that loathes and fears him. He really doesn't let on to Evelyn what's going on (how Doctor-like of him), so she is rightfully appalled when he immediately begins making demands of the Galyari "Orchestrator" and giving him dire threats. The flashback scene in episode two for how the Doctor came to be known as The Sandman is effective, since as told from the point of view of the Galyari, he does come off as terrifying. Granted, we fans are shrewd enough to know that the Doctor's actions will later be justified, but it is a fun juxtaposition for him to be portrayed as evil. Evelyn's reactions are quite reasonable given the Doctor's lack of denial for the Galyari's accounting of their first meeting.
This is a perfect story for our lovably grumpy Sixth Doctor. The scenes where he terrorizes the Galyari are full of the usual Colin Baker bombast, and you can tell he is having a good time portraying this "evil" version of the Doctor. Maggie Stables as always is a delight as Evelyn, appalled at the story being told of the Sandman, and as usual full of amusing quips at the Doctor's expense. They are truly Big Finish's dream team.
Also fun, is the casting of former companion Polly actress Anneke Wills as the hell bent for revenge Nrosha. The story comes close to her being a one note character - frothing at the mouth and seeking bloody revenge against the hated Doctor. But, the scene where Mordecan shows her his "merchandise" shows a completely different side of her.
I do have a couple of complaints. For one, the 2nd part cliffhanger is terrific, but it's one of those "cheat" cliffhangers where in the next episode's reprise they insert some action that was omitted from the previous episode's ending. Yes, Doctor Who has played these tricks occasionally in the past too. But, it always makes a resolution to a cliffhanger less satisfying when they cheat in this way. Also, the Doctor wins over the Galyari to his side a little too easily. I understand that since this happens in the final episode, that time is a bit short. But, it's a little hard to swallow that the Galyari who have been living with centuries with a shared racial hatred of the Doctor that is encoded into their DNA will suddenly begin helping him with very few questions asked. Still, the conclusion remains mostly satisfying.
After the last couple of stories, "The Sandman" is a bit of a relief. There's just no tonic for getting Big Finish on the right track like a 6th Doctor / Evelyn story. Simon A. Forward's script is a captivating and entertaining twist on the Doctor's character. I don't like his other Big Finish Doctor Who script nearly as much, but we can talk about that later. This story is a lot of fun, with a cool setting which is ably realized by the top notch production crew.