THIS STORY TAKES
"MISSION TO MAGNUS"
BRIAN & PAUL FINCH
BIG FINISH 'LOST
RELEASED IN JANUARY
No one lives to old
age in the village.
When their Time is
come, they are taken
and never seen again.
That is The Way. And,
should anyone try to
break with the order
of things, the fury of
Herne the Hunter is
ARRIVES NEAR TO
A castle in this
the Doctor and Peri
befriend Gurth, who
is attempting to flee
his fate. And Herne
is closing in...
impose the culling?
What is the secret
of Zeron? And who
are the Sentinels of
the New Dawn?
within a cave...
(2 60-MINUTE EPISODES)
When I first heard about Big Finish’s plan to bring the season that never was to
the masses I was incredibly excited, but also a little uneasy. Superficially enthralling pitches such as Yellow and Fever and How to Cure It were nowhere to be seen in the planned list
of stories, whereas many of the titles (or variations thereof) had long-since been ground into my brain through incessant re-readings of an old Doctor Who Yearbook, which listed each season’s discarded scripts. Hence my concern: while the likes of The Nightmare Fair and Mission to Magnus had been green-lit and were good to go before the pulling of the plug, others – like Season 22’s Leviathan – weren’t made for different reasons, and I feared that those reasons were because they were, well, rubbish. Happily, I was wrong.
The reasons behind the axing of Leviathan remain a mystery to most of us, particularly when one considers that Timelash saw transmission. The most likely explanation is that producing it would have been far too costly for the show’s meagre budget, something that our friends at Big Finish don’t have to worry as much about, working as they do in the altogether less costly medium of sound. Indeed, the story’s very title suggests immense size and power – very apt, I feel, given that it is a visual, visceral feast that would challenge most movie budgets.
Above: Alex Mallinson presents “a visual, visceral feast that would challenge most movie budgets...”
All the same, despite Brian Finch’s story being so heavily reliant on stunning visuals, his son Paul has done an astonishing job in turning it into a first-rate audio drama, especially when one takes into account that he did so within just a couple of weeks. In fact, one could say that the romance of this script’s eleventh hour discovery and production is dramatic in itself.
Paul Finch’s script preserves and
perhaps even heightens the bold
imagery dreamt up by his late father.
What were originally conceived as constrained, studio-bound scenes
have been embroidered and embe-
llished – the monster that would’ve
lurked in the corner of the screen
on television is now mounted on
horseback, rampaging through a
greenwood. The ambitious ‘reveal’ cliffhanger now has an epic feel to it that, with the best will in the world, the 1980s production team could never have engendered.
However, Paul can’t take credit for Leviathan’s stimulating premise, which was all of his father’s design. Without wishing to give too much away, the medieval backdrop to this tale isn’t even half the story: Finch’s tale is chock-full of clones, androids, lunatic illuminati and even unscrupulous space pirates. It also features a primal, skull-faced fellow with antlers sprouting from his head, who goes by the name of Herne. Herne the Hunter.
Now under normal circumstances, Alex Mallinson’s typically-evocative rendering of this character would have been enough to pique my interest, but as a devotee of the old HTV series Robin of Sherwood – which, ironically, was broadcast opposite Doctor Who during much of Colin Baker’s reign – I was especially fascinated. Robin of Sherwood featured its own version of Herne - a benevolent, shamanic figure who watched over the Robins and occasionally furnished them with magic swords and the like. Yet, for all his munificence, the Horned God of the West gave me childhood nightmares the like of which the Daleks and Cybermen couldn’t even hope to match.
Above: Michael Praed as Robin of Loxley and John Abineri as Herne the Hunter in Robin of Sherwood (1983)
Of course, Herne is a powerful pagan icon woven throughout our culture, first brought to the fore in William Shakespeare’s play The Merry Wives of Windsor, and having appeared in innumerable guises since. Leviathan actively plays upon Herne’s mythological status, the reaping creature that the Doctor and Peri encounter here having been built to stir up ancient, demonic fears within the baron’s serfs. As such John Banks is able to really let rip with an uninhibitedly guttural performance, augmented and distorted by Simon Robinson’s unsettling sound design. I’ve got a horrible feeling that a few childhood demons might be invading my sleep tonight…
Furthermore, as in the previous two Lost Stories, Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant both give impressive performances; particularly the former, who is back to the bombastic majesty of his first year in the part. I realise that I’m in the minority here, but I’ve always had a fondness for the brash, insensitive portrayal of this incarnation, and I’m delighted that Big Finish have resisted the urge to tamper with it in these contemporaneous scripts. Leviathan is clearly a Season 22 story presented in true Season 22 style, and that’s exactly what I was looking for when I purchased it.
Leviathan also features one hell of a supporting cast, History Boy and Big Finish veteran Jamie Parker standing out most of all as young Wulfric. This point does, however, bring me to my only real complaint about this production - there were simply too many characters for me to be able to keep track of them all; a trait that is made all the more confusing by the actors pulling double and even triple headers in order to keep the production costs down. Every single member of the cast does an astonishing job of setting their respective roles apart from each other but, even so, by the time that I was half-way through Part 2 I found myself having to back-track more than once to try and figure out who speaking in certain scenes, which was a bit of a bind.
Overall though, this behemoth of an adventure did little save for astound me, and has gone
a long way to alleviating my anxieties about the quality of the five upcoming Lost Stories. The caprice of a producer, the cost of a set piece, an out-and-out bad call; there are any number of reasons why a Doctor Who script might not have seen the light of day, but whatever force conspired to keep Leviathan from us for twenty-six years has now abated, and I couldn’t be more pleased about it.
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.
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