I’m sitting here wondering how this Big Finish downloads ‘taster’ service is going to work. In essence, it’s simple. Pay 99p and you can download the first episode of any play. Like it and you can download the rest for £12.
All well and good, you might think. But the trouble with most Big Finish plays is that the first episode usually isn’t that good. Either it’s terminally dull set-up for a story that only later turns out to be intriguing, or it’s all a complicated set-up for a story that only explains itself in the fourth act.
Case in point: The Haunting of Thomas Brewster. This comes across in the first episode as a cross between a piece of Oliver Twist fan fiction and a standard twisty turny time-travel story in which everyone starts popping up and laying down plans before events have caused them to happen – or they’ve even arrived.
Yet, if you miss out on it, you’ll be missing out on a new (and possibly interesting?) series of fifth Doctor adventures.
Thomas Brewster is haunted by the ghost of his drowned mother. But she is not the only apparition to disturb his dreams. Every few years, he is visited by a mysterious blue box…
Helped by his new assistant, the young Scots scientist Robert McIntosh, the Doctor struggles to unravel the twisted knot of temporal implausibilities which bind the TARDIS to Thomas Brewster. Meanwhile, lost in the stews of Victorian London, Nyssa must face a host of spectral creatures gathering in the fog.
Is it any good?
On the whole, it’s not bad. Once the Oliver Twist lingo is out the way and we get onto the story proper in episode two, it does quite well for itself.
There’s some nice interplay between Nyssa and the Doctor. New assistant Robert McIntosh (Voldermort Jr in the Harry Potter films) is pretty good – although quite why we needed a new one, I don’t know, given Big Finish has just had a purge and Nyssa and 5 seem to get on quite well together. There’s a decent sci-fi plot – albeit a complicated one – to get your teeth into. And Leslie Ash is in it pleasantly little.
Without spoiling things too much, it also kicks off a whole new series of fifth Doctor adventures in the same way as the Zagreus set off the Divergent Universe series for the Eighth Doctor. And they could be interesting. Or not. Let’s wait and see on that.
It does have a few deficiencies, with Thomas Brewster being a tediously stupid character who always does the wrong thing. There’s so much 19th century slang, you’d have thought the TARDIS translator was on strike. The Doctor comes across as a complete idiot for big chunks of the story. And I’m really not sure quite why the Doctor was marooned, given the TARDIS was working – but maybe I missed something.
All the same, quite good, if not a vital addition to the collection
How much is it actually worth?
Actual cost: £14.99 (£12.99 downloads)
Actual worth: £10.99
Peter Davison (The Doctor)
Sarah Sutton (Nyssa)
Leslie Ash (Mother)
Christian Coulson (Robert McIntosh)
John Pickard (Thomas Brewster)
Barry McCarthy (Creek)
Sid Mitchell (Pickens)
Trevor Cooper (Shanks)
Writer: Jonathan Morris
Director: Barnaby Edwards