Review: Doctor Who – The Lost Stories – 02 – Mission To Magnus

Mission To MagnusBig Finish are in something of a quandary when it comes to these Lost Stories. The idea behind them is to do a “full cast” production of a script or story that for one reason or another never got made, so that fans can finally have something like what was supposed to be on screen (but wasn’t).  

But as I’ve said before, sometimes there have been good reasons for stories not getting made. For example, apart from production difficulties, the script not getting handed in on time, etc, how about because it’s just rubbish?

What do you do if you’re Big Finish and the story is an absolute heap of sh*te? I mean terrifyingly, Timelash/Twin Dilemma bad. On TV, there are these people called script editors who take the scripts writers produce and, if necessary, make them palatable. But if Big Finish edits a really bad script that never got passed by a script editor, is it the authentic production fans wanted? If they don’t, aren’t they going to be making an absolute heap of Timelash sh*te?

The route Big Finish chose with Mission To Magnus, Philip Martin’s lost script from Colin Baker’s aborted second season, was not to edit the script. Oh dear.

Now Mission To Magnus has everything: it has the Doctor’s school bully; it has a planet ruled by women facing war with a planet ruled by men; it has Sil from Vengeance on Varos, who has a consignment of winter woolies (his words, not mine) to sell; it has child actors.

In short, it’s an absolute heap of sh*te. Normally, I don’t endorse Third Reich policies, but if you can, please burn any copies of this play that you come across. Please.

The Lost Stories: Adventures that were originally written for the Doctor Who television series but never made. Now available to hear for the first time…

The Doctor and Peri face enemies at every turn on the planet Magnus. There’s the Time Lord bully Anzor, who made the Doctor’s life hell during his time at the Academy. There’s also Rana Zandusia, the matriarchal ruler of the planet, who seeks to prise the secret of time travel from these alien visitors.

Also on Magnus is the slug-like Sil, still bitter from his defeat on the planet Varos and seeking to make his fortune from the most potentially destructive ends. And, deep within the planet, there is something else. Another old enemy of the Doctor’s. And the future is looking decidedly colder…

Is it any good?
Oh FFS, no. It’s appalling. Even on the CD extras, “the voice of Nicholas Briggs” is messing around with a fellow Ice Warrior pal, dropping hints between the lines that maybe the whole thing could have done with some updating but then it wouldn’t have been ‘authentic’.

This is truly bad, and in many ways it’s actually quite offensive. The dialogue is hopeless: you have people for no reason whatsoever telling their arch-enemies vital bits of information that can be used to defeat them, and then the arch-enemies turn to them and say “I will use this knowledge to defeat you”. It includes terrifying plot dumps like “we women have on our finger a ring capable of three powers: the first…” It even has the visual cues like “They’re all coming towards us!”


The plot is horrendous, too: we have the Doctor quaking at his old school bully’s sudden appearance; we have a supposed war between a planet of women and a planet of men – when eventually they meet, it’s so terrifyingly bad, you’ll want to stab yourself so you can be rushed to hospital then put into isolation so no one can play you the rest of the story. (Spoiler alert)The leader of the men – played by Nick Briggs – suggest they all get married so the women can be ordered around by the men. The women don’t know what marriage is so have to read the men’s minds to find out what it might involve. They’re horrified!

Most of the story has the Doctor with the women, while Peri runs around with young boys, played by actual young boys. They’re about as good as you think they’re going to be. The Doctor isn’t done too badly, but what the hell is up with Peri? Apart from the usual getting captured routine, she talks like she’s been smoking weed for the first half. Our feisty girl from Baltimore says “I come from a planet where the women are almost the equals of men”.

She also doesn’t even come close to getting American dialogue: ‘a hen party’? ‘A first class degree… from UCLA’? FFS. Go away, Big Finish, and don’t come back until you find out what a batchelorette party is and what magna cum laude means.

To be fair, the plot involving the Ice Warriors isn’t bad – even if they call themselves Ice Warriors, which, of course, they don’t in any other story they appear in, since they’re just Martians as far as they’re concerned – and works quite well. It’s just everything involving Sil is ridiculous – he doesn’t exactly hide his plans in this. In fact, he gladly tells you them, which doesn’t make him a very formidable enemy – and everything involving the main cast and the groups of men and women is dreadful.

Performances vary. Colin Baker does a good job of recreating his 80s persona, Nicola Bryant less so. Nabil Shaban is fantastic. Nick Briggs is horrendous, whether he’s one of the voices of the Ice Warriors or he’s Ishka, the leader of the men. Maggie SteedStables does a good job with what she has, as do all the supporting womenfolk.

But there’s no polishing this baby. It’s just so painful to listen to, its supposed insight into men and women is insulting (apparently, men are really war-like while women are all really cooperative and superior and don’t like war) and its reduction of the Doctor to someone intimidated by a school bully with a pain stick is just breathtakingly horrendous.

Still, at least, it’s ‘authentic’.

Amazon CD: £10.49
Big Finish download: £12.99
Big Finish CD: £14.99

Colin Baker (The Doctor)
Nicola Bryant (Peri)
Nabil Shaban (Sil)
Malcolm Rennie (Anzor)
Maggie Steed (Madamme Rana Zandusia)
Susan Franklyn (Jarmaya/Tace)
Tina Jones (Ulema/Soma)
William Townsend (Vion)
Callum Witney Mills (Asam)
Nicholas Briggs (Brorg/Vedikael/Grand Marshall/Ishka)
James George (Skaarg/Jarga/Hussa)

Writer: Philip Martin
Director: Lisa Bowerman


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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