Kicking off a new trilogy of adventures for the Seventh Doctor this year, is The Monsters of Gokroth by Matt Fitton, which sees an older Seventh Doctor continuing her quest to wrap up his loose ends, this time, it concerns Mags, the brilliant character played by Jessica Martin in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, back in 1988.
Looking past the return of Mags for a moment, The Monsters of Gokroth from Matt Fitton works brilliantly as a love-letter to the horror movies of the silver-age from Universal. Even though Fitton has set it on the alien world of Gokroth, the old horror tropes are clear from the get-go. We’ve got castles on a hill, villagers who want the monster dead, people who won’t go out after dark and a mad scientist performing experiments in her castle. And then there is a Werewolf! Big Finish has done a number of love-letter-releases over the past, but this is the first one for the old monster movies.
The Doctor here is an older version of the Seventh Doctor. He has presumably said goodbye to Ace following on from Love and War, though she is in next month’s An Alien Werewolf in London. I think continuity fanatics might put this before the Doctor meets up with Klein and Will in Persuasion because this is still recognisably the Seventh Doctor. Matt Fitton also has the task of bringing Mags, the werewolf from The Greatest Show in the Galaxy back into the fold, once more played by Jessica Martin. And unlike Klein, the Doctor isn’t there to keep an eye on Mags, but as usual, in the Seventh Doctor’s life, it is more than just mere coincidence that brings the two together.
It is a nice touch that Fitton explores the idea that this incarnation is very aware of his own mortality. He knows his regeneration is coming and in one instance he even comments that he is trying to tie up all the loose ends from his previous adventures. Something that was interesting in the early years of the audio range and the later Virgin New Adventures range of books was that the Seventh Doctor had adopted this attitude because he felt his next incarnation wouldn’t have the stomach to play the kind of games he had done. Its a shame that the Seventh Doctor didn’t know about the Time War, where the Eighth Doctor discovered what he was really made of, however, it is a very interesting notion and it is nice that Big Finish are still exploring it and Matt Fitton adds some more interesting layers to it.
Sylvester McCoy is very entertaining yet again and he continues to prove why his Doctor is one of the best incarnations there has been. From the very beginning, the listener isn’t too sure if they should trust him or not. Even though Fitton re-introduces him to Mags early on, hopefully, the listeners will know that the Seventh Doctor is a little manipulative and I wouldn’t trust him right away. Once again it is a great character-beat for the Seventh Doctor and McCoy rises to that brilliantly. I can’t wait to hear him in the rest of this trilogy!
As the cover and the news suggested, The Monsters of Gokroth sees the return of Jessica Martin’s Mags. I must admit to thinking The Greatest Show in the Galaxy is one of the greatest Doctor Who stories of all time. It’s just so enjoyable, there is some great performances there, a really campy yet creepy atmosphere and it is clear how much fun the production was! Plus the weather looked great! (Fun-Fact: I’ve actually stayed at the Warmwell Holiday Park in Dorset that was right next to the quarry where they filmed the majority of this story and Survival!)
One of the best characters to come out of that television adventure was Mags, who went on to form a brand-new Psychic Circus with the survivors of the original story. But the Mags we meet here is older and her leaving the circus is shrouded in mystery but she does say that controlling her werewolf-side has gotten a lot more difficult. It isn’t just in audio that Mags has recently turned up in but she also appeared in a comic-strip at the back of the recent Titan Comics: The Seventh Doctor run, written and drawn by Jessica Martin herself. But Mags always was a popular character from the Whoniverse and it is nice that she has finally reached companion status.
Jessica Martin does a tremendous job. She is instantly recognisable as the same character from 1988 but she obviously allows for the fact that the character is slightly older. She has great chemistry with McCoy, the pair obviously enjoying each other’s presence. Fitton and Martin also go to great lengths to show that Mags is a completely different type of companion to the Seventh Doctor’s previous companions Ace and Mel. And Martin does a tremendous job of balancing the knowledge her character has of the Doctor and still acting amazed at some of the things he does.
Overall, The Monsters of Gokroth is a great start to what promises to be an interesting new trilogy of adventures for the Seventh Doctor. The story and it seems this trilogy, also has strong direction from Samuel Clemens who keeps the action moving along at a great pace.
The Monsters of Gokroth is a brilliant love letter to the old Universal Horror Movies and a very fun run-around, the main and guest cast do a tremendous job and for the first time in a long time, I’ve got no idea where this trilogy is going to go. And that is really exciting!