Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - Devil In The Mist
Peter Davsion's Fifth Doctor is back for a new set of Doctor Who adventures to kick of the 2019 main range release at Big Finish. Joining him this time are Janet Fielding' s Tegan, Mark Strickson's Turlough, along with (for the first time at Big Finish) robotic companion Kamelion, brought to life by Jon Culshaw.
The first of three new releases featuring Kamelion this year, Devil In The Mist has been written by Cavan Scott and directed by Ken Bentley. It is available to download at the Big Finish site here and goes on general release on the 28th February 2019.
Here's the synopsis...
The TARDIS deposits the Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and their android ally Kamelion aboard a prison ship. A ship with just one prisoner: Nustanu, last warlord of the Zamglitti – monstrous, mind-bending mimics able to turn themselves into mist.
A ship that's in trouble, and about to make a crash-landing...
On a planet of mists.
As usual, I'll be joined by my son Ben, the biggest Doctor Who fan I know. Potential spoilers in the review below...
Baz Greenland (aged 37)
Kamelion was a short-lived companion in Doctor Who, the limitations of use preventing him from appearing in more than two stories. So it's lovely to see him given a new lease of life with Big Finish. And a dramatic, action-packed tale no less, that would have been impossible to create on television at the time.
The Devil In The Mist has an intriguing set up in a sinister prisoner that can transform into mist and outwit his captors; in true Doctor Who fashion these captors are giant hippos in the vein of the Judoon who find their ship crash landing on a planet just as the Doctor and his companions have arrived. After a strong set up, the cliffhanger crash at the end of part one sees Kamelion, Tegan and captain Orna (Anjella Mackintosh) are separated from a critically injured Doctor, Turlough and John Voce's Rako.
The stakes are raised in parts two and three as both group navigate a hostile terrain; killer snakes, raging rapids, monstrous lizards and perilous cliff ascents that really push everyone to their limits while the threat of the escaped mist-like Nustanu (Simon Slater) makes for a constant threat. This is a great tale for Tegan, who finds herself taking the leads as both groups head towards the crashed TARDIS, going head to head with the paranoid Orna and fighting her own suspicions around Kamelion who was so easily manipulated by the Master and may have fallen prey to Nustanu too. Turlogh doesn't have as much of a presence as the other TARDIS group, though his cliff ascent as the Doctor lies injured and he is attacked by lizards makes for a dramatic sequence.
Jon Culshaw brings Kamelion to life, with a hypnotic robotic voice and an endearing, earnest quality to his performance. His banter and conflict with Tegan is a core part of what makes this story a success, building on the aftermath of The King's Demons that was never explored on television.
But The Devil In The Mist's real strength is in the bold finale that turns everything on its head. After a great set-up, the middle chapters are entertaining but a standard 'navigating a hostile alien environment' plot that Doctor Who has done many times before. However, part four turns everything upside down with a surprising revelation about the villain of the piece and a twist on the nature of Tegan and Kamelion's tempestuous relationship. With the Doctor badly injured, character motivations shifting and the nature of the planet reavling a whole new perspective on the story, The Devil In The Mist keeps you guessing to the very end.
Ben Greenland (aged 12)
The Fifth Doctor is back! After a long absence from the main range after last April's slightly flat The Helliax Rift, he returns with the much more entertaining Devil In The Mist. It's also a first for the main range with the line-up of The Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and Kamelion. Interestingly, Kamelion has a bit more personality now, than on screen which I think is an added bonus.
The Harrigane are very reminiscent of the Judoon from the David Tennant era, and the captain comes across as very big headed. Nustanu's presence is felt very heavily through the course of parts two and three even though he doesn't appear once, as Kamelion appears to be influenced and takes his form. The twist around Nustanu and Tegan' s influence was fantastic.
The Doctor breaking his back after the ship he is on crashes, is another big plot point, but the idea felt wasted when he said he might regenerate and the most we get is a one minute blackout. He also lulls the characters (and us) into a false sense of security, by saying when he gets to the TARDIS he can fix it himself, but we should have known better.
It all comes to a conclusion in the healing waters, where Kamelion is once again controlled (poor Kamelion) by the guardian of the waters. I admire the Doctor's sneaky way of allowing the guardian to let him go in the waters. Tegan saving Kamelion is a very nice touch that helps build their friendship and the last two lines from the Doctor and Tegan are also a funny touch I like. But how does it just so happen, that after all that hassle trying to get to the top of the mountain, they find Nustanu's body and the TARDIS after they just decided it was good to have a quick look? I wasn't so convinced...
A music suite for Devil In The Most follows part two, a delightfully weird and atmospheric ten minute piece full of tense synth chords and beats. There us also some lovely sweeping atmospheric moments full of grandeur, wonder and tension and a sad but emotional theme running throughout, reflecting the scope of this tale.
There is also a trailer for February's two stories in one release of Black Thursday / Power Game.
Finally a great set of interviews with the cast and crew exploring the brief legacy of Kamelion, getting impressionist and classic Doctor Who fan Jon Culshaw to voice him and a wonderful moment where Janet Fielding gets John to do his best Tegan impression from his Target books audio novel series!