‘THE DARKENING EYE’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Nyssa and the Dar Traders
I loved every minute of this! This is wonderfully and beautifully performed by Sarah Sutton!
‘The Darkening Eye’ by Stewart Sheargold is a two-part ‘Doctor Who’ Companion Chronicle from Big Finish, starring Sarah Sutton as Nyssa. It was the first Companion Chronicle I heard and was a pleasure to hear. I had this on my birthday in May 2009 at a time when I was getting to know Nyssa.
I had already listened to a fair amount of the Big Finish audio adventures with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa from ‘The Land of the Dead’ to ‘Time Reef’ (which was the latest audio story at the time). When I discovered this Companion Chronicle with Nyssa in it, I was fascinated to listen to this story.
I’ve had the CD cover of ‘The Darkening Eye’ signed by Sarah Sutton at the ‘Regenerations 2011’ convention in Swansea, September 2011. I told Sarah that this was my favourite Companion Chronicle and she kept me interested throughout. “I like you, Tim!” she said. I’ll never forget that!
Usually Companion Chronicles focus on the earlier eras of ‘Doctor Who’ where Big Finish can’t do proper full-cast audio dramas due to the fact that the first three Doctors are no longer with us. This is the first time Big Finish focuses on a companion from the Fifth Doctor era and I’m glad it is Nyssa.
This story features not only the Doctor and Nyssa, but also Adric and Tegan. This completes the TARDIS team from Season 19. I have a fondness for Season 19, so it was lovely to have Nyssa tell a story about an adventure she had with her friends and how the events affected her later on in life.
Like most Companion Chronicles, this story is narrated in the first person and is taken from Nyssa’s perspective. It is set between ‘Black Orchid’ and ‘Earthshock’, and Nyssa recollects this adventure after ‘Terminus’ (part of ‘The Black Guardian Trilogy’) where she visits a patient with Lazar’s disease.
The story itself is quite dark and grim, as it manages to get inside Nyssa’s thoughts and feelings as writer Stewart Sheargold intended. Nyssa tells a story about a time where she went beyond ‘death’ to help the sick patient on Terminus. It starts with Nyssa and her friends visiting a derelict spaceship.
Nyssa; the Doctor; Tegan and Adric arrive after a bloodthirsty battle and meet the Dar Traders. These are alien death collectors who capture Nyssa; Tegan and Adric when they get separated from the Doctor. They get catalogued and help the Dar Traders to solve the mystery of the black cabinet.
Sarah Sutton not only gets to play Nyssa in this story, but also the Doctor; Tegan; Adric and the suave Damasin Hyde. Sarah knows Peter Davison; Janet Fielding and Matthew Waterhouse well and gets their voices spot on. It does feel like that Tegan; Adric and the Doctor are actually in the story.
The Dar Traders are voiced by Derek Carlyle. This story is a prequel/sequel to ‘The Death Collectors’ that features the Dar Traders with Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor. I found the Dar Traders frightening and very disturbing, as they’re very unusual monsters that have a strong connection with dealing death.
Stewart Sheargold delves into detail to explain the Dar Traders’ love of death as they consider it an art form and a business. Sometimes it’s frightening to listen to and Nyssa’s descriptions of the Dar Traders are so visual. Even the dark corridors of the Dar Traders’ spaceship are detailed and horrific.
Derek Carlyle guest stars as both the Dar Traders and the Patient on Terminus. When he plays the Dar Traders his voice is rasping, throaty and very alien compared to his ordinary voice as the Patient. I’ve now heard Derek Carlyle in a number of Big Finish audio and he seems to be a versatile actor.
There’s also the ‘deadly assassin’, Damasin Hyde. I found Damasin an interesting and chilling character. Sarah captures the suave elegance of the man in the voice she gives him. He reminded me sometimes of the Master and even Nyssa’s descriptions of Damasin when she sees him are similar.
I liked the scenes set on the ‘autumn planet’ and when Nyssa confronts Dasmasin about why he’s an assassin. She shares the loss of her father with her and accuses him for being so malicious in killing people. What Dasmasin does when surviving gun shots and slaughtering soldiers is shocking to hear.
I loved the moment when Dasmasin’s about to kill the Doctor and Nyssa stands in front of him to block his aim. The final moments of the story where Nyssa confronts Dasmasin in the Dar Trader’s threshold (that looks like a Traken grove) are truly defining for her as she defies him for his coldness.
I liked the connections made to ‘Terminus’ where Nyssa is with the Patient and she relates the story of her adventure to him. I’m glad there is a resolution as to what happened to Nyssa when she got cured from Lazar’s disease because of the Dar Traders and how she begins her new life on Terminus.
I also liked the connections made to Nyssa’s Traken heritage (with references to her first story ‘The Keeper of Traken’). I liked how she connects to what she believes in science and as ‘the marriage of the scientific and spiritual’. Aspects of the Dar Traders’ lifestyle remind Nyssa of Trakenite concepts.
Nyssa’s physic abilities are also explored in this adventure as she experiences premonitions caused by the Dar Traders’ catalogue machine. She sees herself cradled in Tegan’s arms and it reminded me of stories where Nyssa has psychic moments in ‘Time-Flight’; ‘The Land of the Dead’ and ‘Primeval’.
There’s a sense of autumn throughout this story as autumn leaves feature prominently on the alien war-barren planet. I liked the music and sound design as I found it creepy yet beautiful at the same time. The harp music that accompanies the moments of beauty and death for Nyssa is quite eerie.
Sarah Sutton is a lovely narrator as she has a beautiful and clear voice. Sarah is reluctant to do any more Companion Chronicles as she found this one hard-going and was terribly exhausted afterwards. But I like Sarah reading stories and she’s done an audiobook called ‘The Jarillion Mercy’.
The CD extras are as follows. There’s a trailer for ‘Transit of Venus’ with William Russell as Ian Chesterton. There are also behind-the-scenes interviews with Sarah Sutton; Derek Carlyle and director Ken Bentley, conducted by producer David Richardson on this story which I enjoyed hearing.
‘The Darkening Eye’ is a lovely Companion Chronicle with Nyssa in it. I don’t fully understand the story, but I enjoyed it all the same. I wish I can listen to more Companion Chronicles with Nyssa in it. Sarah has got a lovely, beautiful and clear voice and it helps to engage in stories that are read by her.
‘The Darkening Eye’ rating – 9/10
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