When I saw the title of this adventure, I was a bit put off because I know that refers to Tibet and I wasn’t up for an historical story. Still, I’ve been going in order, so I’d have to deal with it. The positive side of it was that we had the Doctor with Peri and Erimem, both of whom are fantastic in the audio dramas. I wish Bryant got such good roles in the series. She was consistently beautiful to look at but about as witty as an air mattress when it came to good dialogue. Having her in these stories fleshes her out far more and I’m consistently impressed by her. Meanwhile Caroline Morris as Erimem is just proof positive that we need a companion in the modern era of Doctor Who who is not from the modern era. I don’t know why the creators of the series are not more aware of this.
So this story features a trip on a train to a cricket match so the Doctor can teach Erimem that most delightful of sports. Things go wrong with a living cloud that scoops up Erimem to make her an instrument of evil. General Bruce, a pompous windbag, is along for the ride and makes the episode far more enjoyable with his overblown personality. Conceptually a fun story and the enemy is one of the “old gods”, which may or may not be part of the Lovecraft pantheon. (Doesn’t matter for the story, but does improve my enjoyment of it!) Speaking of Lovecraft, there’s a combination of genres that you would not think to be a good mix, but it typically works really well: Lovecraft with Sherlock Holmes. While Holmes doesn’t appear in this story, there’s a good deal of dialogue about him, where the General is convinced he’s a real person. Gotta love it! So having Holmes and an Old God together for a story is a happy thing for me!
This story features a bit of a shocker too. Episode 1 ends with Erimem seemingly devoured by this cloud. Episode 2 has a funeral happening for her, which threw me off because I have no idea when she leaves. I actually thought perhaps she was written out in this story. That’s the advantage of a character you create for the audio adventures; you’re not bound by series continuity to keep the person alive. Then episode two takes place almost entirely in the moments leading up to episode one’s cliffhanger. It took me a moment to grasp that because the two parts have the same cliffhanger, but you needed it to show what Erimem had been through. This episode also does something that I loved in our other favorite cricket episode, Black Orchid: we get guests in the TARDIS. (Lord Cranleigh is even referenced from Black Orchid, so the two stories share more than fleeting similarities.) The experience of having guests in the TARDIS always makes me smile and I love when it’s handled correctly.
On the other hand, I’m less impressed by the Batman Syndrome: that’s where you reference something totally random at an early part of the episode so it can come in later to save the day. For no readily apparent reason, the Doctor mentions that someone used liquid nitrogen to freeze the swimming pool. Instantly, I knew that would come in handy later. Way to go; Holy Spoiler Comments Doctor! Another thing I hate in these scripts is when the Doctor introduces his companions as something and they are too dimwitted to just go along with it. “This is my secretary…” “I am NOT your secretary!” Here’s a hint, traveling companion: just shut up in case there’s a reason he says it, then ask later. You actually wonder if they writers think, “what if the listener thinks she’s his secretary? I know, I’ll have her blurt out that he’s a liar to the person he’s talking to so that person loses all trust in the Doctor before the episode begins. That’s a good idea!” Holy Bad Ideas Writer, no, it’s not! And what makes that worse is that Peri has been traveling with him long enough to actually grasp what he’s doing, so why the fuss?
In the neutral zone… not the one between Romulan and Federation space, but that area of Doctor Who writing that I can’t tell if I’m happy about or not, we have yet another reference to the White Rabbit and Lewis Carroll; the second in as many 5th Doctor stories to drop Alice references. I’m pretty convinced it’s going somewhere at this point. There is another thing that I am leaning towards a negative but I might be a bit pedantic here. In the next episode (I inadvertently listened to these two out of order) the Doctor makes it a point to teach us the pronunciation of Jekyll. Colin explains that it’s pronounced with a hard G sound. Gee-kul, or something to that effect. Perhaps he should tell the audience that Peri is supposed to be from America. She would not refer to the lab-OR-a-tory, but rather a labra-tory. Yeah, if you’re going to teach phonetic pronunciation, you’d better be consistent! Unless Peri is related to Igor, she’s not saying labORatory.
This episode gives us a sense of a character arc happening with Erimem and the lead actors are actually good guys saying and doing good guy things. This won’t be the case next week, so I was delighted with this story. I really like when the Doctor has a good cast to play off of and Peri and Erimem are a great duo. I won’t lie and say this was a favorite of mine, but it was far better than I expected. And very helpful to have as entertainment for a 5 hour drive, stuck in traffic from another state! I just wonder if that traffic tainted my view of the story more than it should have. We may never know… ML