The Zygons are one of those Doctor Who monsters that are a firm fan favourite yet only ever appeared on-screen once.
Stars of the Tom Baker story The Terror of the Zygons, they scared, mainly thanks to the superb direction of blog god Douglas Camfield but also because of their shape-changing abilities, biological technology and weird lifestyle – they need to feed off the milk of the Loch Ness monster to survive.
They also amused, mainly because it was really hard to do convincing blue-screen work back in 1975. Still, who knows? Maybe the Loch Ness monster really does look like it’s made of rubber and has a very stiff jaw.
Since then, they’ve popped up in all manner of unofficial and official tie-ins: Tenth Doctor novels, comic strips, New Adventures and videos.
So it seems appropriate that Big Finish have brought them back for an Eighth Doctor and Lucie adventure that is both silly and creepy.
There are no monsters this time… are there?
Ten years later and Aunty Pat is in her prime. She’s snagged herself an ex rock star at the Kendal Folk Festival and now, in the brave new world of the early 1980s they manage together a snazzy hotel on the poetic and shingly shore of Lake Grasmere. However, still waters run deep and friends from the past are returning, intent on milking the old cash-cow…
Featuring the song "Falling Star" sung by Steven Pacey with music by Tim Sutton and lyrics by Barnaby Edwards.
Is it any good?
It’s all right. It’s probably about as good as the Eighth Doctor/Lucie stories are going to get.
The play is a combination of comedy and drama. The first half is the comedic phase, with Tim Brooke Taylor (the last of The Goodies to do a Big Finish play) and Malcolm Stoddard heading off to meet their old Zygon commander. Coincidentally, he’s not a million miles away from where the Eighth Doctor and Lucie are staying with her Aunty Pat.
As you might expect, given the cast, this is the better half for performances. McGann and Smith do well at this stage, aided particularly by Paul Magrs dialogue and some nice audio work. Taylor and Stoddard also amuse, even if the humour isn’t the subtlest at times. Steven Pacey (Tarrant from Blake’s 7) is unrecognisable as Trevor throughout and does a good job with the script – and the singing (this is a sequel to The Horror of Glam Rock, after all).
The second half is more dramatic, as things take a turn for the serious and we ask ourselves "Are Zygons just misunderstood?", "Can love transcend species?" and "How gay is that Zygon?" We don’t ask ourselves this very hard, since the Zygons are trying to destroy us though.
The writing’s as good in this half. However, we’re now willing to cut it less slack so it can’t quite get away with some of the things it was getting away in the first half; in particular, there’s some very "audio play"-esque dialogue in which everyone has to describe what they’re doing so we know what’s going on. "Kill him with your stings!" You were going to suggest another method, perhaps?
The performances tail off as well: Smith seems a little out of her death having to express proper emotions, and Tim Brooke Taylor just isn’t scary, no matter what you do to his voice.
Nevertheless, this is probably the better half of the play, with some decent Zygon nastiness, some touching moments and there’s a clever time paradox-sorting twist in the tail.
On the whole though, this probably would have been better as a straight drama for one of the other Doctor-companion combinations, or a pure comedy. If you’ve been waiting for a Zygon story, you’ll be slightly disappointed. Although it has the usual Big Finish fidelity to both the plot and the original story’s sound effects, we really needed the equivalent of a Douglas Camfield and a Robert Banks Stewart to give it some proper bite – or sting.
How much should you have to pay?
Actual price: £10.99 (£8.99 download); £7.69 at Amazon.co.uk
Actual worth: £5.50
Paul McGann (The Doctor)
Sheridan Smith (Lucie Miller)
Steven Pacey (Trevor)
Malcolm Stoddard (Urtak)
Tim Brooke-Taylor (Mims)
Lynsey Hardwick (Aunty Pat)
Katarina Olsson (Grakus)
Writer: Paul Magrs
Director: Barnaby Edwards
Available from Amazon.co.uk or from the Big Finish web site (who should really think about an affiliates programme, if you ask me)