Ooh, another one of these double-header Companion Chronicles where we get not one but two former companions: in this case, fourth Doctor companions Leela and K9, as voiced by Louise Jameson and John Leeson.
Now, as soon as I heard it was a Leela story, my heart sank. This isn't because I dislike Leela - actually, I quite liked her. No, the trouble is that Louise Jameson is pals with regular Big Finish writer and slaughterer of the Sapphire and Steel range Nigel Fairs. And so far, he's written all the Leela Companion Chronicles.
The Time Vampire is no different in that respect, and despite the presence of K9, is largely no different in other regards, too: it also includes the forgettable Z-nai (Ed: who?), it's overly complicated and despite initial promise it turns out to be painfully bad.
Leela, in her last moments of life, recalls a long-forgotten memory: a time in the TARDIS. The Doctor is worried that K9's increasingly bizarre behaviour might become dangerous. He decides to make a new model, little knowing that the fate of all three time travellers has long since been decided.
As Leela recalls the chilling connection between K9's ‘illness’, the Z-nai and the haunted sea fort in which the TARDIS lands, she prepares for her final journey: into the land of her ancestors; the Afterlife.
Is it any good?
For a good portion of the play, it seems potentially interesting. The Doctor, K9 and Leela are all stuck on a planet after the TARDIS leaves and the Doctor knows that something terrible is about to happen - because his third incarnation is on a spaceship up above them and has already seen what's about to happen. Problem is K9's gone evil, giving out error messages, refusing to obey orders and even killing people.
Could be good, couldn't it?
Trouble is, as well as the utterly forgettable Z-nai, a returning alien race with no important traits that I can determine, we get a great big chunk of what really destroyed the Sapphire and Steel range under Fairs' direction - pretension. "Look at me, look at me! I'm saying something meaningful about life! Pay very careful attention." You can practically see Fairs dancing in front of his computer screen as he types VERY, VERY IMPORTANT THINGS into the script.
There's some sort of oddness involving a carnival which involves Jameson doing a semi-convincing Belfast accent and Leeson doing a very good Dutch accent. But the carnival has a terrible, terrible secret involving time vampires and we all have to think very, very hard about the terrible terrible moral choices the characters must face.
Except we mustn't - because it's a story about ruddy time vampires. Stop being silly, Nigel.
The ending, where all is (kind of) explained and a beautiful shiny red reset button pushed, then concludes (?) Leela's story arc from the previous Companion Chronicles with possibly the six worst, most incomprehensible minutes of drama ever committed to a Big Finish CD (and there's some competition there, obviously). I dare anyone to listen to them and:
- Understand what was going on, other than Leela's dying and the Time Vampire is there.
- Not think those six minutes wouldn't have been better spent watching part of a David Lynch movie, since at least that would look better.
- Not want to rip their own ears off while listening to it. Or at least turn off their MP3 player. Actually, the latter option would be easier now I think about it, wouldn't it?
So really, despite the presence of two talented former Doctor Who actors in this play, I can only advise you under no conditions to listen to it. Sorry.
Louise Jameson (Leela)
John Leeson (Voice of K9)
Writer: Nigel Fairs
Director: Nigel Fairs