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Nyssa the Storyteller
I’ve listened to ‘1001 Nights’ and I absolutely enjoyed it!
This was a real Christmas treat! It was so lovely to hear Sarah Sutton as Nyssa again with Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor. ‘1001 Nights’ is the traditional four single episode-stories CD release made by Big Finish that is similar to ‘Circular Time’ and ‘The Demons of Red Lodge and Other Stories’.
But this is a rather different take on the four single-episode stories CD format. Having the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa as the chosen TARDIS duo for this release, ‘1001 Nights’ has an umbrella story arc overall the CD. Essentially ‘1001 Nights’ has an Arabian Nights setting which was so appealing to me.
The story is about Nyssa telling some stories to an angry Sultan about her adventures in time and space with the Doctor in the TARDIS. She tells these stories to the Sultan in order to rescue the Doctor from his certain death. The plot is something similar to ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’, only better.
I’ve had the CD cover of ‘1001 Nights’ signed by the lovely Sarah Sutton at the ‘celebrate 50 – The Peter Davison Years’ events in Chiswick; London, April 2013. Beforehand, I saw Sarah at the ‘Collectormania Glasgow 2012’ event. I managed to chat to her about this CD before it was released. I’ve also had the CD cover signed by Alexander Siddig at the ‘Destination Star Trek Birmingham’ event in October 2018.
Sarah recorded this story in August and in between my seeing her at conventions in Weston-super-Mare and Glasgow in 2012. I told Sarah how much I was looking forward to this CD after seeing it on the Big Finish website. In April 2013, I told Sarah that I enjoyed the CD. She was so pleased to hear it.
At conventions, Sarah has told me that she enjoys the historical stories more than the futuristic ones. She finds the historical stories ‘visual’ and easy to follow when the story’s set on Earth or in the past. I prefer those stories too like ‘Black Orchid’ when they’re set on Earth in the past or the present.
I love the CD cover with Nyssa’s image from ‘Arc of Infinity’ adorned in the centre of an Arabian temple. Sarah said it’s ‘pretty’ and I said its ‘beautiful’. She is too. I’m really pleased that Nyssa’s is at the centre of attention in this story and she drives the plot forward compared to other companions.
I enjoyed the opening scene with the Doctor and Nyssa, as Nyssa tells a fantasy-version of what happened before they got captured by the Sultan in Arabia. Hearing Nyssa refer to the TARDIS as ‘the Carpet’ and saying “Carpet, unfurl!” and “Fly carpet! Fly!” was so funny. I was laughing out loud.
I enjoyed this collection of short stories in the Arabian Nights setting. It’s a good collection of stories, compiled together by Emma Beeby and Gordon Rennie with Jonathan Barnes and Catherine Harvey. Emma Beeby and Gordon Rennie wrote the overall story of ‘1001 Nights’ from beginning to end.
I was so excited to hear that Alexander Siddig (aka Dr Julian Bashir from ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’) was going to appear in this ‘Doctor Who’ story as the villainous Sultan. Having Alexander Siddig appear in this audio made my day and makes a really nice ‘Doctor Who’/‘Star Trek’ crossover.
I was pleased to hear Sarah as Nyssa in scenes with Alexander Siddig as the Sultan, as he’s such a fine actor. I chatted to Sarah about Alexander Siddig at the ‘Collectormania Glasgow 2012’ event. Sarah isn’t a ‘Trekkie’ like me, but she found Alexander a ‘really nice man’ to work with which must be true.
I was also pleased Nadim Sawalha guest stared in this audio drama. I’ve seen Nadim before in ‘The Nativity Story’ movie (also guest-starring Alexander Siddig) which I watch every Christmas. Nadim Sawalha played one of the Wise Men in that film and is also the father of Julia Sawalha. Honestly!!!
I’m pleased Nadim is in ‘1001 Nights’ as the ‘old man’. I won’t reveal much about the ‘old man’ is and his true identity, but Nadim delivers a tremendous performance. He has some nice scenes with Peter’s Doctor. Hints are revealed about his identity and what happened to him later on in the story.
In the first three episodes, there are three different stories told by Nyssa when she tells them to the Sultan. The fourth episode is the conclusion to ‘1001 Nights’. The three stories that Nyssa tells in ‘1001 Nights’ are these. There’s ‘My Brother’s Keeper’; ‘The Interplanetarian’ and ‘Smuggling Tales’.
The first story, ‘My Brother’s Keeper’, is about an alien prison planet that the Doctor and Nyssa visit. There is one prisoner who gets tortured repeatedly. The story is very gripping and horrific to listen to when the Doctor and Nyssa are involved. Malcolm Tierney is superb as the Warder in this first story.
The second story, ‘The Interplanetarian’, is a period piece set in 1800s Norwood near London. Nyssa gets possessed (again) by an alien. Sarah gives a fantastic performance, although she has said in the CD extras and told me that she doesn’t like doing possession scenes. I do find evil Nyssa pretty scary.
The third story, ‘Smuggling Tales’, is set on another alien planet where storytelling is a part of everyday life. Stories are used as a means of currency. This is quite an unusual concept when the Doctor and Nyssa visit. It’s tense when they’re trying to please their audience with their storytelling.
The fourth episode of ‘1001 Nights’ rounds up to the whole Arabian Nights tale. I won’t reveal any spoilers about the Sultan’s identity. It was interesting when Nyssa’s stories intrigue the Sultan as he clearly becomes mysterious. The TARDIS scenes with the Sultan and Nyssa are mesmerising to hear.
I’m not sure I know when the stories within ‘1001 Nights’ take place during the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa’s timelines. It goes to show how extended Nyssa’s travels are in the TARDIS compared to the TV series. I long for more adventures with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa by Big Finish when they come.
The CD extras are as follows. At the end of Disc 1, there is a suite of incidental music to enjoy. It includes the lovely Nyssa theme music from ‘The Keeper of Traken’ which was a treat and joy for me. At the end of Disc 2, there is a trailer for ‘The Wrong Doctors’ with Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford.
On Disc 2, there are also behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews with Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton and Alexander Siddig. I liked Alexander’s mentions of how lovely Sarah is; Sarah’s mentions of being pleased to be part of ‘Doctor Who’ and Peter’s hints of something about the 50th anniversary.
If you subscribe to Big Finish for ‘1001 Nights’ via a 6 or 12-CD/Download subscription, you’ll get the following extras. In the post, there’s a bonus ‘Doctor Who’ CD called ‘Night of the Stormcrow’ with Tom Baker and Louise Jameson. There’s also a PDF script of ‘Night of the Stormcrow’ on download.
There’s a two-part making-of documentary called ‘The Fourth Doctor Adventures Retrospective’ that goes with ‘Night of the Stormcrow’. There’s also a bonus Short Trip called ‘Only Connect’ with the Fourth Doctor, read by John Banks. There’s also a PDF script and extended extras of ‘1001 Nights’.
‘1001 Nights’ is a Christmas gift I’ve immensely enjoyed and it was well worth waiting for. Chatting to Sarah Sutton at conventions about this CD and her working with Alexander Siddig made it worthwhile. I’m glad Sarah is pleased about the acting challenges given to her as Nyssa by Big Finish.
‘1001 Nights’ rating – 9/10
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