Please feel free to comment on my review.
Romance in the English countryside with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa
Here’s my first and favourite Big Finish audio CD of ‘Doctor Who’ with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa! 🙂
‘Circular Time’ by Paul Cornell and Mike Maddox is four episodes on two CDs. But it’s not the traditional four-part story in ‘Doctor Who’. Oh no! These are four individual one-part stories loosely connected by the four seasons in the annual year. This became a very successful format of storytelling. 🙂
I purchased ‘Circular Time’ for my birthday in May 2008. It was the first Big Finish audio CD I heard and my life hasn’t been the same since! 😀 Both ‘Black Orchid’ and ‘Circular Time’ got me to become a huge fan of Sarah Sutton as Nyssa, as she ended up being my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ companion. 🙂
When I first met Sarah Sutton at the ‘Fifth Element’ event in Chiswick, London, February 2010, she signed my DVD cover of ‘Black Orchid’ and my CD cover of ‘Circular Time’, which I’m very happy about. At the time, she ranked ‘Circular Time’ as one of her favourite Big Finish ‘Doctor Who’ audios.
It’s not hard to see why as ‘Circular Time’ became the template for Nyssa’s character in later Big Finish audios and the episodes themselves enhanced her character. ‘Circular Time’ is arguably one of the most influential Big Finish audios featuring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa and I cherish it immensely.
I hope to explain why that’s the case as I go through each of the four episodes featured in ‘Circular Time’. Incidentally, Paul Cornell came off fresh from doing the new ‘Doctor Who’ TV series having done ‘Father’s Day’ and ‘Human Nature’/’The Family of Blood’ before contributing ‘Circular Time’. 🙂
This first episode of ‘Circular Time’ is called ‘Spring’. I believe it’s by Mike Maddox, based on a synopsis by Paul Cornell. The story is set on an alien planet where bird-like creatures dwell. Some say this is the weakest of the four stories, but I quite enjoyed this tale when I heard it for the first time. 🙂
For me, it’s a gentle way to start off the four stories. I like how the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa’s relationship is played out in the episode, especially between Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton. Peter and Sarah know their characters inside-out and they bounce off each other really well in this story. 🙂
The episode’s guest stars include Hugh Fraser as Cardinal Zero, who is a renegade Time Lord that rules the bird-like alien planet. Hugh Fraser is well-known for playing Captain Hastings in the ITV series ‘Poirot’. I found Hugh Fraser really good as Zero as he delivers the charm of the character well.
There is a lot of Time Lord politics going on in the episode when the Doctor and Nyssa are meeting Cardinal Zero. Some might find this overwhelming on a first listen, but I’ve been able to hear the episode more than once and I have enjoyed the various threads of how Time Lord politicking works.
The episode also features Jamie Sandford (who later plays Andrew in ‘Autumn’) as Hoodeye, one of the Avians, and Toby Longworth (a renowned voice actor in a number of ‘Doctor Who’ productions) as Redklaw, another Avian. Both Hoodeye and Redklaw fight each other in the episode’s opening. 😐
There’s also Lois Baxter as Lady Carrion, the leader of the tribe of birds on the bird-like alien planet. Lois Baxter also played Lamia in ‘The Androids of Tara’ with Tom Baker. In the story, Lady Carrion conducts the punishment on relatives of Avians who have committed violence against each other. 😐
Teresa Gallagher guest stars as Snowfire, Hoodeye’s sister in the episode. Snowfire begs the Doctor to help her and her family get out of being tried and sentenced for execution when her father killed someone. I don’t think that scene goes anywhere, but I appreciate it being featured in the episode. 🙂
The episode’s ending took me quite by surprise. It was rather unexpected and a little rushed in a short space of time, especially with Zero regenerating into something half-Time Lord, half-Avian. Having listened to the episode again however, I believe the story does manage to hold up really well here. 🙂
‘Circular Time: Spring’ rating – 7/10
The second episode of ‘Circular Time’ called ‘Summer’ by Mike Maddox, based on an idea by Paul Cornell, is a pure historical adventure. I really like this little episode with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa. They get arrested and they meet the famous Sir Isaac Newton, wonderfully played by David Warner.
I saw David Warner before in the two ‘Star Trek’ films ‘Star Trek V: The Final Frontier’ and ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’. He’s also been in the ‘TNG’ two-part story ‘Chain of Command’. Lately, he’s been in the ‘Doctor Who’ episode ‘Cold War’ and he’s the Unbound Doctor for Big Finish.
David Warner delivers a great performance as Sir Isaac Newton. I’m not sure how historically accurate Sir Isaac’s personality is in terms of the episode’s writing, but I found it convincing when I heard it. I liked the nod to the Doctor meeting Sir Isaac before as established in ‘The Pirate Planet’. 🙂
There’s some lovely dialogue and exposition between the three characters – the Doctor, Nyssa and Sir Isaac. Peter, Sarah and David play well with each other. The Doctor and Nyssa try to divert the conversation long enough to prevent Sir Isaac knowing too much about the history of Earth’s future.
It’s interesting how coins are used when Sir Isaac deduces the future from them, including a 2003 £2 coin, a 1953 50p, and other coins from the future. No doubt this inspired me when I wrote my eight-episode anthology ‘The Coins of Deno’. It’s clever and inventive as the episode’s writing progresses.
The comedy moments featured in ‘Summer’ are by far what I like about this episode. Most of the comedy is quite black and a little bemusing at times. Some of the lines said by the supporting characters are bizarre and unexpected, and it took a number of listens to get my head around them.
The guest characters include Jeremy James as the prison guard at the Tower of London, who I think is called Bert in the story. There’s also Trevor Littledale (who I would later hear in ‘Vengeance of the Stones’) as the jailer and Sunny Ormonde as Molly Richards, the jailer’s wife who gives him supper. 🙂
In the episode, the Doctor mentions he met Harry Houdini to Nyssa as they’re trying to get out of their prison cell. I know ‘Circular Time’ was made before ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ came along, but surely the Doctor would have remembered that he, she, Tegan and Adric had met Houdini in that certain story.
‘Circular Time: Summer’ rating – 8/10
The third episode of ‘Circular Time’ called ‘Autumn’ by Paul Cornell is my absolute favourite of the four stories in the anthology. It’s a story that’s close to my heart. It’s a gentle tale where Nyssa falls in love for the first time with a young man called Andrew. It’s what attracted me to the CD release. 🙂
As I’m a sloppy guy, I find this a rare treat. The love story between Nyssa and Andrew is very sweet. Sarah is lovely as Nyssa and I like the scenes where she falls in love with Andrew. It’s a side that we rarely see in her. Nyssa goes through the motions and experiences what falling in love is actually like.
She also contemplates whether to spend her life on Earth or not. I have come across criticisms about this particular episode from other fans, but I still love ‘Autumn’ to this day. It inspired me with writing my own Fifth Doctor stories as they feature the love story between Nyssa and Billy Walker. 🙂
The story takes place in Stockbridge village where the Doctor gets to play cricket whilst Nyssa’s in love with Andrew. Stockbridge has featured quite prominently in the ‘Doctor Who’ comics including ‘The Tides of Time’, ‘Stars Fell on Stockbridge’ and ‘The Stockbridge Horror’, featuring the Fifth Doctor.
The Fifth Doctor and Nyssa would later visit Stockbridge in ‘The Stockbridge Trilogy’ (‘Castle of Fear’, ‘The Eternal Summer’ and ‘Plague of the Daleks’). I’ve also had the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Billy visit Stockbridge in ‘The Stockbridge Terror’ (also featuring Andrew in it) and briefly in ‘The Prime Factor’.
Jamie Sandford guest stars as Andrew in the episode and he plays opposite Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa very well when the two characters fall in love with each other. There’s also Toby Longworth as Jack and John Benfield as Don who are in the cricket team the Doctor plays with in their cricket season. 🙂
There’s also Jeremy James as Anton, an Estonian barman working in one of the Stockbridge pubs (Not sure if it’s Redfern Inn or not). I must admit, I found the Fifth Doctor’s cricket game plot less interesting than the Nyssa/Andrew romance, but hearing the story more times, I can appreciate it. 🙂
I found it heartbreaking by the time the episode came to an end, but it was also done lovingly and beautifully. ‘Autumn’ is an easy audio episode to get into and it’s well-supported by the beautiful music composed by David Darlington. I wish that more romantic love stories for Nyssa were made. 🙂
‘Circular Time: Autumn’ rating – 10/10
|The previous story
For the Fifth Doctor was
For Nyssa was
The next story
For the Fifth Doctor is
For Nyssa is
|Return to The Fifth Doctor’s Timeline|
|Return to Nyssa’s Timeline|
|Return to The Doctors’ Timelines Index|
|Return to The Companions’ Timelines Index|
|Return to Doctor Who Timelines|
|Return to The Nyssa Challenge|
|Return to Doctor Who|
|Return to Sci-Fi|