Big Finish 183 – The Brood of Erys
By: Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith. The man who brought as Adric. He’s come full circle, and is writing for Doctor Who again. The only other Big Finish work of his I’ve heard is The First Sontarans.
Like Philip Martin, I’m gathering a central theme, a central thought, in Smith’s Doctor Who ouvre. I’m not sure if I am correct (having not listened to all of his works), but it seems the spirit behind Full Circle continues throughout Smith’s writings. It’s evolutionary. It’s speculative. It’s about the way species and planets interact with each other as both undergo historical changes.
And that is, in many respects, what we get here
The Brood of Erys are the Drachee, the children of Erys, the moon to the planet Asphya. The Drachee treat Erys as children do with a loving parents: seeking Erys’ favor while also seeking their own independence. They are somewhat cute and mischievous, as the Doctor and Flip’s first encounter with them shows. The TARDIS finds itself in the space of a planetary system marked off limits from all other life forms. They are warned to stay away. But they soon see small ships coming to the TARDIS to investigate it. Those ships contain the Drachee, and the Drachee, interested in the TARDIS, go to investigate. They exit their ships, and crawl over the TARDIS’ exterior. Flip lets them in – only to find that to be a major mistake. They try to take over, and, failing that, they leave, abducting Flip with them.
The Doctor, searching for Flip, encounters Sarra (Nicola Sian), who has amnesia and doesn’t know why she is in a space yacht in a planetary system which has been designated as off limits.
The Doctor and Flip thus engage the system in two different ways, each finding out the secrets of Erys in the process.
There was a side of the story which reminded me of the Rings of Akhaten, because of the living moon, but here, the moon has more personality and provides far greater interest than the New Who equivalent. It’s not malevolent, in its own right; it sees itself as a parent, and treats its children, the Drachee, as an overbearing parent might. The Doctor has to find a way to engage Erys, to become a better parent. How he does so is touching, because it opens us once again to the heart of the Doctor, and his own difficult experiences in the past.
With the similarity this has with Rings of Akhaten, of course, there are differences, and those differences make this a better story. There is more humor here, especially with the first encounter with the Drachee. The Doctor’s connection to his past, once again similar to Rings, is brought out better here, more subtle and yet more telling at once. The Sixth Doctor gets to bring out a good side of his character we don’t always get to see.
Sadly, I’ve yet to be impressed with Flip, and this story hasn’t changed that.
This should have been used instead of Rings for the 7th season of the show.
Needless to say, this isn’t perfect. It is a much more mature story for Andrew Smith, but it still continues with themes we see starting with Full Circle. Themes which are hard to use for a story, and even here, still fail, though only slightly. It might just be me, but I would think living planets or moons would be much different from what we have seen and heard in Doctor Who. But be it as it may, this isn’t a bad offering, and again, makes for a far superior story to Rings.
Fourth Doctor Adventures 3.03 The Crooked Man
Written By: John Dorney
As with many Big Finish Doctor Who stories, there are elements of the plot which I would like to discuss but cannot in order to preserve some of the mystery associated with the story. This adventure once again connects to Doctor Who’s long-established canon, and as such, part of its successes and failures lies with that association, but, for the sake of my review, I will not deal with those points. (I will only say this about the canonical connection: how it is brought together in this story is interesting, and I would have liked to see more of it, see it more widespread than it was here, which is what makes it both a great idea, but also, weakened because of the lack of scope).
The Doctor and Leela return to earth, to find themselves in a town where strange murders are taking place. The owner of a bookstore was killed, with pages from books stuffed down his throat. The local constable finds the case to be more complex and mysterious than he can deal with. And all around the death is the Corbett family. There is a monster, the Crooked Man, on the loose, and it seems interested in the Corbetts. Why? And is the Crooked Man the only menace?
As the story began, I found it very entertaining. The structure of the tale as well as the atmosphere was well done. The Doctor and Leela were portrayed well, and the Crooked Man, the named menace of the story, had an interesting and yet creepy appeal to him. It was difficult to know what his objective was, and that just made his appearances tantalizing. The first half of the story is exceptional, and I would rate it a 9/10.
The second half, however, went through too much too quick. I give it a 7/10. The ideas are interesting, but the presentation of them needed another “episode” to make it all fit and not feel cheated with the ending. The Crooked Man himself suffers as a result of this. When who and what he is was revealed, it could have been used for something more. As with many one disc fourth Doctor stories, I feel the length of the adventure hurt the story, with maybe only a little blame to the author (I am sure it could have been worked out more, improved a bit, but in the end, is the time worth it?). The ending was quick, and a bit “easy,” not because it didn’t fit with what was established, but because it felt like everything was set up and then it ended. I wanted more depth with the characters established here, especially with the Crooked Man himself. I would have liked to see him interact with the world at large more than he did. Many questions emerged as this story’s connection to the Doctor Who canon was revealed. There are many enticing ideas here, but the implications could not be established with such a short adventure. What is asked, however, is something I ask myself: when so much is written in this day and age, how does that which is written establish itself, in the middle of all the excess noise?
The Doctor and Leela are presented more at their best, such as in Talons of Weng-Chiang, and so their characterization and activity in this story, are top notch. The Crooked Man, in the first half of the story, is also top notch, but as I said, loses some of his appeal in the way he is dealt with at the end. Perhaps, even, I would have liked the end of this story be more vague and not so succinct as it seems, so as to give room for more development elsewhere. Indeed, I could imagine a particular Big Finish Seventh Doctor villain interacting with the Crooked Man creating an interesting and rathe, twisted tale. But I find that difficult with the ending we are given --- everything seems to be put back to its place, with a reset which would have been lovely not being pushed (and, in this instance, wouldn’t have to be!).
If only I could talk about the canonical connection of this story. All of what I said above would make more sense. I have had to speak rather vaguely (though, I fear, not vague enough) to describe my reaction to the story. In the end, we have a great set up, a great idea, and even an excellent and creative way to engage a canonical aspect of Doctor Who, but we are given too short a story to deal with this, and so the ending suffers as a result. It’s enjoyable, but the second half less than what the set up made me expect. Even then, I l give this an 8/10. It was one of the more enjoyable stories I’ve heard in the FDA range.