Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - The Movellan Grave

The last installment in the Fourth Doctor Adventures before its two-part finale, The Movellan Grave features Tom Baker's Doctor and Lalla Ward's Romana II in a story that acts as a sequel to Destiny of the Daleks. It also features the return of the Dalek's android enemies, following their brief cameo at the start of Doctor Who series 10.

Written by Andrew Smith and directed by Nicholas Briggs, The Movellan Grave has been released on digital audio and CD. It's available for Big Finish customers now and goes on general release on the 31st August. Here's the synopsis...

When an archaeological dig in 1980s England finds a Movellan power pack buried amongst Iron Age artefacts, the Doctor and Romana have no choice but to investigate. And what they discover worries them very much indeed.A Movellan ship is buried under the ground. Soon the robotic enemies of the Daleks are making their way to the surface, but they are not the biggest threat humanity faces.

Because on board this ship is the greatest weapon the Movellans have ever devised. A weapon that could stop the Daleks forever... and anything else that gets in their way.

Once again, I'll be joined by my 11-year old son Ben, one of the biggest Doctor Who fans this side of Gallifrey.

The Review...

Baz Greenland (aged 36)

The Movellans - a powerful android race or 70's disco rejects? Destiny of the Daleks, which saw their one and only appearance (before that brief return in The Pilot) doesn't always have the best reputation, but that may be in some small part to acting as a follow up to the almighty Genesis of the Daleks. Still as a concept, the Movellans are an interesting race, their sole purpose to destroy the galactic threat that is the Daleks. Done right, their return to the small screen could be brilliant.

Fortunately their foray into Big Finish here is a simple but very effective one. The episode sees the Doctor and Romana still on Earth post-City of Death. While the Doctor is happy to soak up the atmosphere of 1980 England, Romana is less impressed. Sampling the three TV channels available, they observe the news of a strange archaeological dig and set off to investigate. (Though I would have loved to have seen Romana's reaction to Mork and Mindy!)

Archaeologist Carrie Pierce (Camilla Power) discovers a Movellan power cell and awakens Commander Narina (Polly Walker), a cold, ruthless android warrior who is determined to get back to her war with the Daleks. There's a nice twist in her ships' defeat at the hands of the locals two thousand years ago (had this been a longer story I would have liked to have seen that play out) but the real drama is in the creature lurking within her crash ship, Dalek weapon Chenek (Chris Jarman).

It's a solid, atmospheric tale of humans accidentally awakening an unstoppable threat - pure Classic Who - and the idea that Chenek has turned on its Movellan crew and is now planning to eradicate half of London and the surrounding countryside makes for a solid threat. Poor assistant to Carrie, Robin Lyon (John Banks) finds himself eradicated by the ship's defences while the Romana and Carrie struggle to save the local populace while the Doctor solve the real mystery behind this creation.

The idea that Chenek was created out of the emotions of human Dalek slaves is a powerful one and I'm sure there's a message in there about men being fuelled by emotion while women (in this instance the Movellans) getting on with the mission. Jarman manages to balance menace with vulnerability in his performance and you can't help feel for him when the Doctor wakens him to what his happening and he turns on his own people. Walker's Narina tows the line nicely between ally to the Doctor and the real threat come the story's end while Power's makes a strong impression as Camilla, a quasi companion to the Doctor and Romana. It's a story with a cracking cast.

It also fits the two-part format well, the first part uncovering the mystery of the Movellan remains and building to the threat of an awakened Chenek with part two dealing with that threat unleashed. It might not be the strongest entry in the series, but it is certainly a sold, entertaining tale and makes good use of both the Doctor and Romana. Once again, the Fourth Doctor Adventures continues to fire on all cylinders...

Ben (aged 11)

Well, the sixth series of the Fourth Doctor adventures is nearly at an end. But before the amazing finale, let’s look at The Movellan grave. I found a it a tad weird, having Movellans but no Daleks. Though we do have Chenek, the Movellan experiment and while all Movellans are girls, but listening to Chenek it was interesting to have a male character too.

Carrie was a great, straightforward character. When you have alien characters like the Doctor and Romana, Chenek and Narina, you sometimes need a character like Carrie to keep the questions being asked. Chenek’s sacrifice is very sad, even though he tried to murder everyone. Then again, he was reprogrammed. You can obviously see the frustration in Romana when told that the Doctor doesn’t know when they’re leaving, it is almost like Lalla Ward is there instead of Romana.

It is a bit sad that the Daleks don’t feature, but it shows that the Movellans are good solo too. The story was fast moving and definitely fun, but I am already looking forward to pirate tale The Skin of the Sleek next time…

The Extras...

The trailer for the next installment in The Fourth Doctor Adventures The Skin of the Sleek and the first of a two-part finale. It looks to be an atmospheric tale, which sees the Doctor and Romana stranded on mysterious planet.

There are four meaty interviews too; Lalla Ward talks visualizing the Movellans and their ship and remembering scenes from her debut tale back from 1979. Her and Tom Baker have fond memories of Destiny of the Daleks, but note a few uncomfortable scenes filming in quarries. It's also lovely to hear Baker talk about Michael Wisher's performance as Davros [from Genesis of the Daleks] and his successor  David Gooderson.

There are more interviews with the cast of The Movellan Grave which give an nice insight into the making of the story. It's always nice to hear actors talk about working with Baker in awe.

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