THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
BIG FINISH AUDIO
DRAMAS "THE LAND OF
THE DEAD" AND "THE
BIG FINISH CD#10
RELEASED IN JULY 2000.
WHEN A TELEPORTATION
badly wrong, Nyssa
stranded on the
freezing slopes of the
Swiss Alps in 1963.
But is it mere
coincidence that she
finds shelter in a
haunted by a
A staggering improvement upon the fifth Doctor and Nyssa’s first adventure together on audio, Winter for the Adept is an extraordinary example of a seventh Doctor-free Andrew Cartmel story. Unburdened by the heavy social commentary of his Who novels and the darker aspects of the Doctor’s persona that he’s often credited with bringing to the fore, here the former Doctor Who script editor is content to provide a straightforwardly spellbinding tale of pubertal psychics and pan-dimensional poltergeists. Or, as he pitched it, “St Trinian’s with witches.”
Set in the desolate snowy Swiss Alps, at a first glance Winter for the Adept seems to have much in common with the preceding Land of the Dead. However, while Cartmel may have extrapolated the total sum of his plot from a nifty idea for a title, it’s immediately apparent that his script wasn’t rattled off in a week, and stylistically the two stories couldn’t be any further apart. Land of the Dead was textbook 1980s’ Who, warts and all, whereas this tale bears all the hallmarks of a traditional ghost story, brimming with séances and unseen spectres and scented with the odour of sickeningly florid incense. It’s even bookended by redolent piano-scored narration, as one of the principal characters looks back upon these events from afar, wistfully remembering her time “trapped in the ghost academy” with the man known only as the Doctor – a man who would grant her wish by offering her a trip in his TARDIS.
As fate would have it, cheeky adept Peril’s TARDIS trip would prove to be an isolated one, but the same wouldn’t be true of the actress portraying her - soon after this story was recorded, India Fisher would win the role of Charlotte Elspeth Pollard, companion to Paul McGann’s eighth Doctor. On the strength of Winter for the Adept, it’s easy to see why Fisher was cast - she imbues Peril with a sense of amiable waywardness that would in many ways define Charley. She was in good company here too - the deceptively dulcet tones of Hannah Dickinson’s Mademoiselle Maupassant exemplify the well-to-do finishing school high in the Swiss Alps, while Sally Faulkner is an immediate presence as its scathing Scots headmistress, Miss Tremeyne.
Of course, being a Doctor Who story, Winter for the Adept couldn’t possibly be a traditional ghost yarn – after all, ghosts and ghouls would hardly be at home within the Doctor’s unshakeably scientific stratosphere. To Cartmel’s credit though, he manages to preserve the story’s supernatural aura even once the real menace has been exposed, and while he flouts cliché in the eerie elements that he includes, he also eschews it with a number a twists so surprising that you’ll be hard-pressed not to spill your tea. My favourite thing about this play though is its literary sense of romance – unlike Cartmel’s often unforgiving New Adventures prose, his lyrical dialogue often borders on poetic. If you found Sylvester McCoy’s Cartmel-penned soliloquies in the final episodes of Dragonfire and Survival to be even the slightest bit stirring, then you’re in for a real treat here – just be prepared for the inevitable spillages.
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.
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