-20347-X) RELEASED IN

 JULY 1990.




 On the surface of the

 planet Magnus, SOME


 enemies are PLANNING

 to trick the planet’s

 all-female rulers.

 the Doctor and Peri

 MUST foil a plot to

 freeze the PLANET and

 wipe out most of the




















































































 (ISBN 1-84435-445-0)





 The Doctor and Peri

 face enemies at every

 turn on the planet

 Magnus. There's the

 Time Lord bully who

 made the Doctor's

 life hell during his

 time at the Academy.

 There's also Rana

 Zandusia, the ruler

 of the planet, who

 seeks to prise the

 secret of time travel


 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...



 PREVIOUS                                                                                  NEXT


Mission to Magnus

JULY 1990






1990 saw Target Books release the final novelisation in their Missing Episodes series, Philip Martin’s Mission to Magnus, featuring Sil and the Ice Warriors. Sounding good so far? Well...


Originally conceived as a two-part television story, this serial was scheduled to have been the third story of the 1986 season that was never produced. I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who’s oft-lambasted twenty-second season, and when I read the novelisation of The Nightmare Fair - which was originally intended to open the 1986 season - I could sense that Graham Williams’ story had the same sort of tone as many of the serials that I favour from the 1985 run. However, Mission to Magnus is much lighter in nature, at times bordering on outright frivolity. It’s Vengeance on Varos without the biting social commentary; Mindwarp without

the grit and the darkness; Sil without the venom.


© Rob Hammond 2008. No copyright infringement is intended.


Just take the Doctor for example. Colin Baker – “a great bull of a man”, as Terrance Dicks once described him; arguably the most intimidating of all Doctors. And what does Martin do with him? He has him cowering from a school bully. The blurb says it all: “…Peri is amazed to witness the Doctor’s transformation into a cringing coward.” Amazed really isn’t the word.


And as if butchering the already under-fire sixth Doctor were not bad enough, Mission to Magnus goes on to lay waste to the noble Ice Warriors. Whilst their plot to try and move Magnus away from its sun is certainly plausible and, on the face of it, compelling enough,

it all falls down because on the page Martin’s Ice Warriors just don’t read like Ice Warriors. Where are the rasping voices? From the prose, it seems like Martin has them speaking BBC English! And don’t even get me started on Martian continuity…


Somewhat surprisingly though, Peri is used well by the writer. I think a lot of this derives from Magnus being such a female-orientated society, as Peri inevitably has to get in the driver’s seat a lot more. Moreover, Sil, as always, is absolutely extraordinary – you can actually hear that sinister cackle even as you read about him on the page. Had Martin been able to evoke the Ice Warriors so well, then this review would read very differently indeed.


© Rob Hammond 2008. No copyright infringement is intended.

Above: Yellow Fever and How to Cure It, the Robert Holmes classic that never was...


All told, Mission to Magnus is not a book that I’d recommend. It’s a great pity that the fourth commissioned story for the 1986 season - Robert Holmes’ Yellow Fever and How to Cure It featuring the Rani, the Master and a full compliment of Autons – hadn’t been developed well enough to warrant one of these novelisations. Now that one does sound like it would’ve been well worth a read…


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.


Mission to Magnus








Like many Big Finish listeners, I was familiar with the first two Lost Stories long before I ever had to chance hear them. In the late 1980s, having novelised every television serial that they lawfully could, Target Books turned to Doctor Who’s aborted 1986 series for some new fodder, their Missing Episodes range culminating in the July 1990 publication of Philip Martin’s Mission to Magnus – a slim and lifeless tome that did little to fan the flames of my mourning for the lost season.


In terms of narrative, Mission to Magnus is every bit as engaging as Martin’s other Doctor Who scripts; in fact, it is only blighted by one farcical thread (as to which, see below). Whilst Martin’s central idea of feminism gone mad may not have been quite as prescient as Varos’ reality television shows, it was still a great hook to hang a story on. Sadly though, for me the book was spoiled by indistinct Ice Warriors, and an underlying, incongruous frivolity.


© Rob Hammond 2010. No copyright infringement is intended.


This audio adaptation, however, is a terrific improvement upon the lacklustre novelisation. Though Martin has had to fine-tune his original vision for the much more intimate medium

of audio drama, Mission to Magnus is clearly a story that was intended to be performed, and is best enjoyed that way.


Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant should be given tremendous credit for their performances here; particularly so, given that this was the first of the eight Lost Stories to go before the microphones. Both are able to recreate their characters exactly as they were portrayed on television in the real Season 23, which for Baker is an especially remarkable achievement, considering just how much he’s developed the character and honed his performance over the last decade.


© Big Finish Productions 2009. No copyright infringement is intended.

Above: Another superb Alex Mallinson centrefold


However, the script is not kind to Baker's Doctor. For some reason that I can’t even begin to fathom, the first episode of this story portrays the oft-overbearing sixth Doctor as a cringing coward; a man who is outwardly and genuinely terrified of Anzor, an old school bully from his class on Gallifrey. Now I’m not hot on the idea of having the Doctor habitually bumping into Gallifreyan acquaintances in any event, but I do concede that the era to which Mission to Magnus belongs was hell-bent on destroying any semblance of mystery that the character had left, and so Anzor’s presence here is at least reminiscent. But even so, having the sixth Doctor – a man who has faced Daleks and Cybermen – cowering and whimpering at the sight of a mere “bully” is nothing short of preposterous. Baker does his best with what he’s given, buoyed by having Malcolm Rennie’s decidedly embroidered to Anzor play off, but ultimately I spent half of the first episode cringing.


Peri, conversely, is handled much better by the writer. By Big Finish’s usual standards, of course, her journey in this story is fairly unchallenging, but when compared to her outings on television Mission to Magnus seems to give her a little more to do. This may be attributable in part to Magnus being dominated by a female upper caste, represented in this story by Maggie Steed’s intractable Rana Zandusia and Susan Franklyn’s ineffectual mind-prober, Jarmaya. I found that the performances of Steed and Franklyn really helped me to invest in these characters in a way that the novelisation couldn’t - on the page I only saw the vaguest outline of ciphers, whereas here I heard living, breathing and rather forceful characters.


© Rob Hammond 2008. No copyright infringement is intended.

“Look at all these beautiful women. Are we in a beauty contest?”


Similarly, the Ice Warriors of this

production are, without a doubt, Ice

Warriors. Given life by the match-

lessly malleable vocal folds of Big

Finish executive producer Nicholas

Briggs, the Martians that we meet

here not only sound like they are

supposed to, but they manage to

sound different to each other as

well. I particularly like Briggs’ throaty Grand Marshall, who sounds positively ancient. Oddly

though, Briggs’ most memorable line in the production is provided by Ishka, the human that

he also plays. At the end of the story, having “shown” Jarmaya what the males intend to do

to the females once they become their wives, he quips “I think you women are going to enjoy

the mingling of the sexes”. Just the right side of naughty...


Nevertheless, the leading light of Mission to Magnus is, without a doubt, Nabil Shaban, who reprises his role as Sil for the first time in almost twenty-five years. I think it’s fair to say that had Shaban not been on board, Big Finish might as well have forgotten about adapting this story – it would have been an insult to Shaban’s performances on television to have recast the part, and the story really couldn’t have worked without Sil sat at its heart, swinging like a pendulum towards whichever party is on top at any given moment. Needless to say Shaban resurrects Sil effortlessly, recreating not only the sound of the villainous creature but also the odd dynamics of his menacingly playful relationship with the Doctor and Peri. The second episode’s concluding scenes are a particular joy as Sil is forced to team up with (and suck up to!) our two heroes after he’s just spent the best part of two hours insulting them!


© Rob Hammond 2010. No copyright infringement is intended.


However, as I found to be the case with Big Finish’s adaptation of The Nightmare Fair, the most arresting aspect of this production is its redolence. Producer David Richardson and director Lisa Bowerman have demonstrably gone to great lengths to try and make these

two episodes sound like they’ve been lifted from a mid-1980s television soundtrack, and

they’ve certainly succeeded admirably. Simon Robinson’s score in particular instantly puts the listener in mind of the surrounding television stories, more so than even The Nightmare Fair’s evocative score did.


And so, at the end of the day, I enjoyed Mission to Magnus. I don’t think it’s dazzling by any means, but it’s a little piece of history, miraculously preserved, which is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin.


Mission accomplished.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

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.