(ISBN 1-84435-098-3)





 Edinburgh, 1827. The

 infamous body

 snatchers Burke and

 Hare are at large.

 The local prostitutes

 dull their fear with

 cheap whisky. The

 graveyard owls are

 hooting. Business is

 good. When the 

 Doctor and Evelyn 

 stumble upon one of

 Britain's most lurid,

 illuminating chapters

 in history, a simple

 case of interest in the

 work of dedicated

 man of science Doctor

 Robert Knox, quickly

 turns sour.


 Just what is that time

 bending Scots mist?

 What ever it is may

 put the very fabric of

 the universe under

 threat. As always.


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Medicinal Purposes

august 2004







“Medicinal Purposes” is a perfect example of the more traditional Big Finish audio drama - an atmospheric four-parter with a stellar cast, a suitably chilling and morally challenging subject-matter, and penned as it was by acclaimed comedy writer Robert Ross, there is plenty of good old fashioned humour thrown in for good measure.


I am particularly fond of the first three parts of the story. The sublime performances of Glenna Morrison as Mary, Tom Farrelly as Billy Hare, and David Tennant as the wonderfully sympathetic ‘Daft Jamie’ really bring Edinburgh’s underground city to life in vivid detail.


Where this story really triumphs though is in how it explores the differences between the Doctor and Evelyn’s morality. The Doctor (the man who "steps over a dead body to cry for a dead butterfly", as Colin Baker once described him) is willing to recognise the greater good that comes from Hare and Burke’s grave robbing and Knox’s experimentation on these exhumed bodies, yet Evelyn is far more reluctant. Having established this early in the first episode, Ross then cleverly turns the issue on its head, having Hare, Burke and Knox cross the line and commit murder for their experiments - murder for the Doctor’s ‘greater good.’


“You’re human. It’s the distinct lack of humanity that gives it away.”


However, whilst Leslie Phillips puts in a truly exemplary performance as Knox, Ross might

as well have written in the Rani, the Master, or even the Meddling Monk as the main villain

as Knox’s character ultimately turns out to be cast much in the same mould. In my view the whole story would have worked much better without Knox being from the future as the whole ‘Peepshow’ angle seems very contrived and even detracts from the gritty feel of the story. And what's more, Robert Holmes did it thirty years ago! Had Ross not seen "Carnival of Monsters" when he penned this?


Thankfully though, the last episode is redeemed by the emotive ending, the Doctor and Evelyn faced with a heart-wrenching decision regarding the place of Tennant’s simpleton, Daft Jamie, in recorded history.


On the whole, the scant few weaknesses in “Medicinal Purposes” are more than made up

for by its overriding quality. Whilst this one may not quite be spoken of in the same breath as "The Holy Terror" and "The Chimes of Midnight" et al, it is still an exceptional outing for the sixth Doctor and Evelyn - one that I would heartily recommend.


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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