3.04-the-evil-one_cover_largeBlurb: The TARDIS lands in the cargo hold of luxury space cruiser the Moray Rose. The crew and passengers are missing. The agents of Inter-Galaxy Insurance are determined to find out what’s happened and the shadowy Interplanetary Police Inspector Efendi is showing a very particular interest.

Caught up in all this, the Doctor and Leela find themselves facing a horde of metal mantis-like aliens. But throughout it all, Leela is haunted by terrible nightmares and the dawning realization that everything she knows about her life is a lie.

Review: The middle story of the third season of Fourth Doctor Adventures involves some call backs to the classic series story, The Faceless Ones. Those new to the classic series shouldn’t be worried if they haven’t seen it. The references to that earlier story are either explained or are simply names that are referenced for no reason other than that they come from the earlier story and have no wider significance. The guest cast boasts Blake 7’s Michael Keating and Geoffrey Beevers reprising his role as The Master. If you don’t look too closely at the CD cover the Master’s involvement actually comes as a bit of a surprise, since he’s not mentioned in the blurb and he’s not shown on the cover. This makes for a very nice treat for anyone familiar with the classic series or with his earlier stories for Big Finish.

The Evil One promises revelations that will show that everything that Leela thought that she knew about her life is a lie. Nick Briggs states in the interviews that he wanted to make this a character study about Leela’s relationship with her father. It’d be incorrect to say that these things have nothing to do with The Evil One but they are a very small part of the overall story. This is a recurring theme when it comes to Nick Briggs stories. He seems to have a problem developing themes into full blown stories. Instead the theme becomes a tag-on to a completely different story that seems barely related to it. Destination: Nerva was supposed to be about the evils of British colonialism but that got superseded by a story about a giant space amoeba.

On its own merits The Evil One doesn’t have the most interesting of plots. The Master wants to brainwash Leela, so he recruits a bunch of aliens to help him do it. It’s never explained why he doesn’t use his own powers of mesmerism for this purpose or why if he can lure the TARDIS to a specific area why he doesn’t just send it to a more dangerous spot. The Master’s allies are the Salonu and they want to destabilize the galactic economy. Exactly why they’d want to do this is unclear as is why they are working with the Master. Although the Salonu themselves are described as metallic insects, which helps to distinguish them from other Doctor Who races, they are not given any kind of real personality here and seem to be nothing more than set dressing.

That isn’t to say that there’s nothing good in this story. Louise Jameson revels in the chance to play a villain and injects “The Evil One” with all the cold-blooded killer performance that she can muster. Tom Baker also is in top form and seems to be quite excited to be working with two other talented actors. There’s a wonderful scene at the end of the story where the Doctor ignores Leela as she’s introspective and depressed as the Doctor usually does when human emotions make him feel uncomfortable. But then she calls him out on ignoring her as he’s often does and he turns and talks to her. That scene was really wonderful and you really got the impression that the Doctor looks at Leela as a sort of surrogate daughter. The sheer fact that he was willing to let himself get so uncomfortable so that he could give her comfort was so nice. Geoffrey Beevers is the same silky smooth villain that he always is. He seems to have been sidelined a bit in this story and isn’t in it as much as one would expect but he is good in the scenes that he’s in. The real guest star of this one is Michael Keating, Villa from Blake’s 7. He gets a lot of time with the Doctor in this one and they become a double-act. They’re both clearly pleased to be working with each other and their chemistry is fantastic.

Production-wise this story was mostly good. Briggs proves himself to be a better director than writer. The scenes where Leela is having the false memories are well done. One stands out more than the rest when the story segues between the Doctor offering some exposition and ends it with “we’d be as dead as Leela’s father”. It flows so well from what’s happening in the story to the faux story that one could easily not notice it when first listening. The only issue with the direction is the ending scene where the Master gets away. It sounds very confused and it isn’t clear exactly what happened. It sounds so much like the kind of thing that his Doctor would say, but it’s so mean spirited that of course he wouldn’t have said it. The music in this one is superb. It evokes the spirit of the early television story and helps to keep the pace going. The sounds are also excellent for the most part except for the voices of the Solanu who sound like someone just took the sound of the Troughton era Cybermen and applied it to them. It would have been nice to have them sound more distinctive to give them a bit more of a personality.

Recommendation: Promising revelations both personal and story-wise, The Evil One fails to deliver. Instead you’ll find a convoluted plot with some weak motivation with a nice scene about Leela’s relationship with her father tacked on at the end. Still, the regulars and the guest stars work their hardest to keep this one from sliding into awful territory and that combined with some good direction and some nice music makes this an okay story to listen to, but not one that I’d recommend. You can easily skip this one.

5/10

2014

Audio Drama

Big Finish Productions

Directed by Nicholas Briggs

Produced by David Richardson

Written by Nicholas Briggs

Runtime Approx 60 min.

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