(ISBN 1-84435-492-4)




 Margrave University

 in 2001, and Raine

 Creevy is enjoying

 her first trip into

 the future.


 For the Doctor, there

 are mysteries to BE

 solveD: what are the

 creatures imprisoned

 in the labS? And what

 are the motives of the

 student Scobie and his



 With enemies on all

 sides, the Doctor

 teams up with old

 friend Brigadier

 Bambera and the

 forces of UNIT in a

 battle for the future

 of the whole world.



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JUNE 2011







Andrew Cartmel’s Animal was the mooted Season 27 story that I knew the least about. Given that the provisional running order for the 1990 run was reportedly Earth Aid / Ice Time / what would become Crime of the Century, then this story may have proven to be the season finale and thus Sylvester McCoy’s swansong. However, its feel is anything but funereal.


The plot is abounding with Cartmel’s tried and tested tropes, but rather than hammer them

in the way that, for instance, his novel Warlock did, instead he teases the listener with them. Animal unfurls surreptitiously over its four elongated episodes, its tangled tale threatening to be about vivisection; the abuse of psychotropic chemicals; the clandestine development of weapons of mass destruction; and even the Torchwood-style harvesting of extra-terrestrial meat, before ultimately focusing on another idea altogether – something far odder. Animal

is about the Numlocks - a race of painfully-polite, self-styled pacifists who, since they have become vegetarians, need to obtain dietary supplements, and you can guess from where. It’s certainly a far more imaginative conceit than your usual power-crazed aliens looking to enslave humanity, and it’s one that’s not without menace.


© Big Finish Productions 2011. No copyright infringement is intended.


To voice the play’s posse of veggie villains, director Ken Bentley turned once again to the versatile John Banks, who voiced the Metatraxi in the previous story. Banks was charged with walking a very fine line indeed as the Numlocks’ dialogue and demeanour is written in such a way as to be almost entirely comic. I say ‘almost’, because every so often Banks has to deliver a line that is wrought with menace, albeit menace veiled by pedantry or farce. My favourite example is the First Born’s mellifluous warning “you will come to know harm”, which is, of course, misconstrued by our hopeful heroes.


And Animal’s unusual antagonists are not limited to the Numlocks. One of the play’s chief offenders is Scobie (Anthony Lewis), a science student who harbours such radical beliefs that he builds a gigantic antennae and uses it to invite aliens to his university. Not only is it refreshing to hear a younger villain, particularly when he is as well played as he is here, but Cartmel compounds the innovation by giving him the most intriguing paramour – one whose motives and actions are even more perplexing than her lovers.


© Big Finish Productions 2011. No copyright infringement is intended.


Of course, this release’s

main selling point is the

return of Brigadier Winifred

Bambera, the hard-ass

successor to Brigadier

Lethbridge-Stewart who

left a lasting impression on

viewers of the 1989 serial

Battlefield. As the script

editor on that production,

Cartmel seems to write

for Bambera effortlessly,

nailing the character’s cadences and rhythms,

and allowing Angela Bruce to slip back into the character with the same ease that she might slip into an old dress. The author is careful to take account of the four years that have passed since Battlefield though, softening the character a little when she deals with the Doctor and his companions. She’s particularly friendly with fellow explosives enthusiast Ace, and though she and the Doctor disagree incessantly throughout, it is without any of the doubt or spite seen in Battlefield. Bambera is also given an interesting new foil – a Sergeant who might well be an idiot, an indiscriminate killer or something else entirely.


The three regulars are handled with equal poise. Sylvester McCoy expertly plays the master manipulator come undone, and the script gifts him some marvellously mischievous moments that the actor seems to have relished. Sophie Aldred’s Ace is the epitome of her televised self, with perhaps just a little more slapstick, particularly when she’s forced to go undercover as a ‘Happy Herbivore’ and is subjected to Raine’s indelicate teasing. Understandably Beth Chalmers’ Raine is given less exposure than she was in her introductory story, but still plies her considerable charms and talents to devastating effect. She also learns the hard way the pitfalls of time travel – and Googling – which Chalmers and McCoy handle superlatively. The Doctor’s closing speech about the leaf’s subjective position in the river would probably be incredibly moving, if only its concepts were graspable.


© Big Finish Productions 2011. No copyright infringement is intended.


If Animal has a weakness, it’s that not enough is made of its distinctive university setting. I was at university back in 2001, and it was a far more vibrant place than fictional Margrave seems to have been back then. The first episode, admittedly, is reasonably atmospheric as Ace and Raine try to infiltrate Freshers in the Union Bar, but beyond that the action shifts to UNIT-funded labs and lecture halls which I didn’t find anywhere near as redolent. Had I spent less time downing yards of Snakey B in the union, however, I suppose I may think differently.


Overall then, Animal is another Cartmel belter, and I’m desperately disappointed that there won’t be a lot more scripts from him to follow it. Perhaps Big Finish will commission him to script a play in the main range soon – there may be some mileage in introducing us to the Numlocks’ nefarious cousins, the Capslocks.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2011


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



When is now? This story is explicitly set in 2001, which places it four years after the events of Battlefield (a number of stories in the spin-off media state that Battlefield took place in 1997,as its author famously opined when writing a Virgin writers guide). Please see the UNIT Dating Dossier for further information.


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