(ISBN 1-84435-353-8)





 The present: Leela is

 doomed, trapped

 inside a prison cell

 of a dead race.


 The past: After a

 disaster aboard the

 TARDIS, the Doctor

 and Leela arrive at

 the capital city of

 Synchronis, a world

 renowned for peace

 and civility. But an

 attack by a vicious

 creature leaves the

 Doctor in a coma, and

 Leela is persuaded to

 fight in the Empathy

 Games, where she

 discovers nothing on

 this world is as it









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Empathy Games








After the success of The Catalyst, itís little wonder that Louise Jameson was invited back to Big Finish to reprise the role of Leela for another Companion Chronicle. Dead or otherwise, there are some characters you just canít keep down.


I do share writer and director Nigel Fairsí concerns, however, about penning a sequel to a story that ended on such a resounding, if irresolute, note. For many, The Catalystís final scenes provided Leela with a much more appropriate departure than the television series ever did, and so for it to be worth Fairs effectively demeaning that, Empathy Games really had to be something special. Trouble is, it isnít.


Fair dues, I expected a lot. Louise Jameson acquitted herself consummately when she narrated The Catalyst, and her co-star here, David Warner, has as much gravitas as any other actor that I could mention working in any medium. Similarly, over the years Fairs has proven himself to be a marvellous writer, director, and even sound designer.


All the same, I found Empathy Games to be a little slow, and a little jaded. There are some lovely ideas in here Ė the combatantsí telepathic link to their prey, for instance, and Fairsí blazing destruction of the TARDISí Season 14 console room Ė but nothing exceptional enough to set me raving. The long sequence in the middle of the story where the Doctor languishes in a self-induced coma feels especially sluggish, particularly to someone who

has read Chris Boucherís Match of the Day and has thus seen Leela put through a broadly similar ordeal before.


However, what sets this release apart from Match of the Day, and ultimately what saves

it, are the performances of the two stars. Jamesonís Leela is spot-on - she recreates the brazen warrior of the television series flawlessly once again, and I particularly like how she portrays the elderly, moribund version of the character as seen in the bookends. Whatís more, Jameson has great range and is able to lend distinctive voices to the productionís supporting characters, most notably the female Cathartic warriors. And though his role as Co-ordinator Angell is hardly sizeable, Warner brings the character to life with characteristic aplomb, turning what might have been quite a lifeless role in the hands of another actor into one that, at times, is really quite remarkable.


For me though, the one element of Empathy Games that stood out above everything else was Fairsí music and sound design. As a recreation of, or perhaps even homage to, the sort of incidental music and sound effects that were used in the series at around the time that the main events of this story are set, this storyís soundtrack cannot be beaten. Indeed, some of the music used early in the first episode was so reminiscent that for a while I was convinced that it was stock music, lifted from an actual Doctor Who television serial.


On the whole though, Empathy Games is not a Companion Chronicle that Iíd recommend to anyone other than the most ardent Leela enthusiasts and completists. Itís not a bad story by any means; itís just not a particularly good one. I think it says a lot when a Companion Chronicleís framing scenes are more momentous than the actual tale that it tells.


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.



This CDís blurb states that the events of this story take place between the television serials The Talons of Weng-Chiang and Horror of Fang Rock. However, this story depicts the immolation of the TARDIS control room used during Season 14, which, whilst not seen in Horror of Fang Rock, was likely still in use given Leelaís reaction to the original control room in The Invisible Enemy. We have therefore placed the events described by Leela in this story in between Horror of Fang Rock and The Invisible Enemy.


The bookending scenes follow on directly from those of the earlier audio book The Catalyst and lead into those of the later audio book The Time Vampire.

Thanks to Chris McKeon   


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