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Leela’s Story of the Z’nai Begins
This is the fourth of Series 2 of the Companion Chronicles in ‘Doctor Who’ by Big Finish!
‘The Catalyst’ is an amazing and intriguing Big Finish audio of ‘Doctor Who’ from the Fourth Doctor era. It stars Louise Jameson as Leela, companion of the Fourth Doctor. It is a two-part story by Nigel Fairs, who is a huge fan of Leela! This is beginning of a sad story as Leela is on at the end of her life.
Leela is a very popular companion from the Fourth Doctor era of ‘Doctor Who’ with Tom Baker. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Louise Jameson at conventions and she knows who I am now. I’ve enjoyed the Big Finish audios featuring Leela, as she has become a more interesting character lately.
The main story of ‘The Catalyst’ takes place during Leela’s travels with the Doctor, which is sometime between ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ and ‘Horror of Fang Rock’. It is narrated by Leela, who is now older; dying and under cruel interrogation by the warrior-like Z’nai who require information of her.
I found this an interesting stage of Leela’s life when she is on the verge of death whilst recollecting her memores of ‘The Catalyst’ story with the Z’nai. It obviously takes place after Leela’s life on Gallifrey and the ‘lost world’ the Z’nai speak of must be Gallifrey as it was lost during the Time War.
I like how Leela recollects her travels with the Doctor on death’s door whilst being interrogated by the Z’nai. It’s strange to hear Leela being old and on the verge of death. But she’s strong and refuses to submit to Z’nai’s torturous interrogation of her as she is a true savage and isn’t afraid of anything.
In the story of ‘The Catalyst’, Leela recollects a time when the Doctor takes her to learn good manners at an Edwardian house of an old friend of his, Joshua Douglas. But at the house, she discovers the Doctor’s trophy room and finds a Z’nai warrior who has been a prisoner by the Doctor.
I liked how Leela gets continue with her education by the Doctor as they go to Joshua Douglas’ house. It put in mind of Leela’s earlier appearances in ‘Doctor Who’, particularly with ‘The Talons of Weng-Chaing’. Leela also makes some interesting discoveries on the Doctor’s past when meeting the Z’nai.
I certainly like how Leela contrasts with Edwardian society and how she reacts to moral standards and values at the time. Nigel Fairs touches upon Leela’s questioning of women’s roles in Edwardian society. This is evident when Leela interacts with Jessica, Joshua Douglas’ silly and very girly daughter.
I liked the comparison between Leela and Jessica when they go down into the cellar and find the Doctor’s trophy. Jessica is pretty squeamish and Leela scorns when she’s so girly. I like when both talk about the books they’ve read and the reference with Leela as Eliza Doolittle put in by Nigel Fairs.
Nigel Fairs clearly loves the character of Leela and enjoys writing for Louise Jameson as well as directing her in this audio. Nigel captures the atmosphere of this story very well, as it feels gothic and unnerving that is appropriate and I do like it how he writes for the Fourth and Leela in this one.
Louise Jameson is lovely to hear as a reader on audio. I was easily captivated by Louise’s reading for this story when she plays Leela recollecting events of ‘The Catalyst’. Louise closely connects to the character of Leela, as she knows her inside-out and established her for what she is in the TV series.
I thoroughly enjoyed how Leela reflects on her life, both when she’s travelling with the Doctor and she’s held under interrogation by the Z’nai at the end of her life. I liked how Leela questions the Doctor’s motives when she learns what he did to the Z’nai prisoner and she questions her savagery.
Louise’s impersonation of Tom Baker’s Doctor is brilliant! I like the tone Louise captures with Tom’s Doctor. She manages to get the eccentricity as well as the fieriness of Tom’s Doctor in this audio. It was interesting how Leela sees the Doctor whenever he observes her or he becomes angry with her.
I was intrigued to discover that Joshua Douglas is an old friend and companion of the Doctor from a previous life. One wonders how and when Joshua meet the Doctor and which incarnation it was. It turns out Joshua is involved with the Doctor’s capture of the Z’nai at his house when imprisoning it.
I had goose-bumps when the Doctor gets angry with Leela after she left Jessica with the Z’nai warrior in his trophy room at the house. There was a moment when Leela thought the Doctor was going to hit her at some point. It emphasises on how Tom’s Doctor can be quite frightening at times to Leela.
Timothy Watson voices the Z’nai in this audio adventure with Leela. The Z’nai are vicious warrior-like aliens in battle armour who the Doctor has met before. They also become a terror for Leela both in this story and later on in her life when they’re torturing and interrogating her for vital information.
The voice that Timothy Watson gives to the Z’nai is very chilling and disturbing to listen to. The Z’nai seem superior and righteous in their ways, especially when the Doctor challenges them on their justice and code of war. Leela also challenges them, even when the Z’nai invade Earth in ‘Part Two’.
The story ends on a rather depressing note with how the Z’nai defeated and the Doctor is disappointed with how he failed his friends and those in the future. Soon the story ends with the Doctor and Leela leaving the Edwardian house behind and they burn it as they leave in the TARDIS.
It also seems like the interrogation for older Leela by the Z’nai is still going on, as this is the first of a trilogy of Leela stories with the Z’nai by Nigel Fairs. Leela challenges the Z’nai by offering the choice. It’s now getting tense and I wonder what will happen next in the next instalment of this Z’nai trilogy.
The CD extras are as follows. There’s an enjoyable interview with Louise Jameson about the making of ‘The Catalyst’. Sadly there isn’t a trailer for the new Companion Chronicle of ‘Doctor Who’ by Big Finish and no suite of incidental music from this story which would have been nice to listen to here.
‘The Catalyst’ is a very gripping Companion Chronicle featuring Louise Jameson as Leela from the Fourth Doctor era. I found Louise very engaging to listen as she read this story on audio. I wondered what would happen next for Leela, as she continues to be cruelly interrogated by the warrior Z’nai.
‘The Catalyst’ rating – 8/10
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