THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVEL "EMPIRE OF
DEATH" AND THE BIG
FINISH AUDIO DRAMA
"WINTER FOR THE
LAND OF THE DEAD
BIG FINISH CD#4
RELEASED IN JANUARY
LANDING IN ALASKA,
THE Doctor and Nyssa
encounter a group of
people in a most
unusual house. WHEN deadly creatures
outside, the Doctor
realises that an
force HAS BEEN
The Land of
In his notes accompanying the CDs, writer Stephen Cole claims that he wrote his script for The Land of the Dead in just a week, clearly of the view that this is something to shout about. Fair dues, had he thrown something together the calibre of City of Death in a week - as Douglas Adams practically did - then that would have been a remarkable achievement. This staid four-parter, however, is not.
A lot of exciting elements have been thrown into The Land of the Dead. Its Alaskan setting is terrifyingly desolate, evoking feelings of claustrophobia despite its great white expanse, while its carnivorous dinosaur-like monsters don’t just take energy from the creatures that they devour, but DNA too, evolving a little with each meal. One could even argue that such monsters are even more effective in this medium, because their realisation is not tarnished by a 1980s’ BBC television budget – they are created through sound alone, and Big Finish’s sound design is superlative.
However, The Land of the Dead is almost completely unrefined. The majority of its four episodes run for longer than they would have done had they been made for the television series, despite them containing far less meat. Any sense of pace is punctured by the near repetition of set pieces and the incessant dawdling of the protagonists – the family feud between Brett and Tulong, despite being played well, is stretched to the limits of its elasticity, and Monica Lewis spends far more time grumbling and grousing than she does serving the plot. Poor Lucy Campbell does her level best to inject a little wry humour into the part, but, be it by accident or design, her character comes across as a poor man’s Tegan Jovanka. Fortunately the team of Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton are able to carry the listener through most of the play’s weaker moments, the former managing to give the impression of running down corridors with his customary zest even when the script has him sauntering about the TARDIS console room fiddling with knobs, while the latter manages not sound a single day older than she did in Terminus, some sixteen years prior.
Somewhat ironically, then, The Land of the Dead is as authentic a slice of 1980s‘ Who as we’re ever likely to get. This release’s hurried gestation has imbued it with flaws that, with the best will in the world, Big Finish would have remedied had they had the time needed to do so. Make no mistake, The Land of the Dead is a below par production – but it is, at least, redolently so.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This play’s blurb and production code suggest that it takes place soon after the television serial Time-Flight, with the following fifth Doctor and Nyssa Big Finish audio dramas occurring in release order. However, given the novel Empire of Death’s greater propinquity to Time-Flight, we have placed this story shortly after it.
Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.
‘Doctor Who’ is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.