Finally, after nearly a year of waiting, we’ve finally got to know what happened to the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Marc, following the shocking events of last December’s release Warzone/Conversion. Thin Time and Madquake finally gives us the answers we’ve been waiting for!
Kicking off with Dan Abnett’s, Thin Time, things get started in a rather spooky way. With Halloween around the corner, this makes a great spooky listen. But it’s far more than just a creepy listen. Over the last few years, I’ve really gotten into Abnett’s work at Marvel where he has really expanded on the Marvel cosmos, playing with characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy and Galactus, Annihulus and the Inhumans. It seems like ages since we last saw Abnett’s name attached to anything Doctor Who related.
Thin Time also explores the Doctor Who universe, this time giving us a nameless threat that lives in the time vortex. At first, it was going to be the Reapers but instead, the threat remains nameless and unknown, adding the ever creeping sense of threat that is layered throughout the script.
The Doctor explains that Halloween is a thin point in time, a point where creatures try to break into our reality because the walls around it are at their weakest. It’s an interesting premise and with only the house the Doctor finds himself in the only thing left in existence but the end of episode one, one does wonder how the Doctor can defeat the evil when he doesn’t even know its name. Thankfully, the Doctor manages to rewrite some of the laws of physics and puts things right, but Abnett throws a few curve balls into his script, even managing to make everyone’s suspicions of the Doctor feel new and fresh because he is the only outsider and the chaos did seem to start when he arrived.
He fills the script with some great characters, namely the maid, Polly, who makes a great one time companion. She explains that in this strange new timeline, her husband died in a war with Russia and begs the Doctor to set things right. It’s even sadder than when we learn the ultimate fate of Polly, who perishes from a Cholera outbreak a few years after time is set right again. It’s a shame because if Big Finish had wanted to draw out anticipation even longer in concern with Tegan, Nyssa and Marc, Polly would have made another great companion, though it might have gotten a little confusing having the same name as the Second Doctor’s companion.
As a result, Thin Time is a great way to spend an hour, with a cosmic mystery only someone like Dan Abnett could think off as well as a few timey-wimey elements thrown in for good measure and a cameo from the Eleventh Doctor, voiced by impressionist Jacob Dudman, it makes for a brilliant story. Though I’ll admit, it took me a minute to work out it was the Eleventh Doctor!
Madquake by Guy Adams forms the other half of this set and sees us learn what happened to Nyssa, Tegan and Marc following the Doctor leaving them on a paradise planet. Well, as one could guess, Tegan wasn’t exactly happy about it, but it’s done in a way that references her trials on Deva Loka with the Mara. Similarly, Adams makes sure Marc isn’t having a great time there either, as he struggles to come to terms with his life as it currently is. While he’s far from the first companion to have suffered a fate similar to his, but chronologically, he’s the first to suffer a Cyber-conversion.
And while actor, George Watkins does a good job with what he’s given here, his perhaps, rightly so but nevertheless endless moaning does get a little annoying and it does feel towards the end that even Adams didn’t know what to do with his character now. It’s a shame too because in the previous trilogy I really liked Marc, but if it’s going to be like this from now on, I’m not sure I see much of a future for his character.
It’s only Nyssa that seems to be enjoying her time on the planet, and even then she’s getting fed up with her two friends constant moaning. Nevertheless, Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding do a brilliant job here in a story that does eventually feel like a run around for the final thirty minutes.
But what a run-around it is with the Slitheen making their return. There is something very exciting about New-Who monsters meeting Classic-Who characters. And the Slitheen are no exception. They also make a good foil for Nyssa and Tegan to show how much they’ve learned in their time with the Doctor and their defeat of the Slitheen feels real earned.
Apart from feeling like a runaround, Adam’s story does shine a light on the mindset of the companions at this particular moment in time. As a result, it’s refreshing if nothing else. It’s a fun little run-around which won’t set the world on fire but doesn’t outstay its welcome and really gives Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding a time to shine.
Overall, Thin Time and Madquake is another strong entry into the Fifth Doctor’s mythos at Big Finish. Despite doing nothing but moan, Marc’s predicament continues to promise to be one of the most intriguing things that happen to a companion and I’m looking forward to hearing it get concluded, presumably sometime next year.