‘THE LADY OF MERCIA’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Tegan in the Dark Ages
Fancy a historical adventure? Well here it is!
‘The Lady of Mercia’ has been an enjoyable historical romp with the Fifth Doctor; Tegan; Turlough and the older Nyssa. It stars Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson and Sarah Sutton. It’s very clear that the cast enjoyed this audio adventure, especially since it is a historical story on Earth.
This four-part adventure is by Paul Magrs, who also wrote ‘The Boy That Time Forgot’ and ‘The Peterloo Massacre’. I enjoyed Paul’s writing in this, since he writes well for the Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and Nyssa. He does well setting up his story in two time zones in Mercia, 918 and in Frodsham, 1983.
The Doctor and friends visit the University of Frodsham in England, 1983. They attend a conference celebrating the warrior queen Æthelfrid of Mercia. Whilst at the conference, a collision of science and history takes place which gets Tegan sent back in time with a history professor to the Dark Ages.
As I said before, the regular cast enjoyed doing this story since it’s an historical adventure that isn’t too complicated in the sci-fi realms. This I can understand and sympathise with, as this is a standard historical adventure with added time-travel elements that harken back to the William Hartnell days.
It was interesting listening to this tale, as it depicts a period of history I’m not familiar with. The Dark Ages must have been a grizzly time back then for the people of Mercia, and it’s certainly a period I don’t fancy living in myself. It was interesting that Mercia formed the English lands we know today.
I found the university setting for this story interesting. This would have been from Paul Magrs’ experience of universities as he is a lecturer as well as a writer. It was interesting hearing the student protests taking place in the story and the setting did make me recall of me studying at Cardiff University.
This is a very good story for Janet Fielding as Tegan. I really like how the Big Finish audios develop Tegan’s character. She isn’t as aggressive as she was from the TV series, since she’s balanced in being resourceful; witty and calm when she deals with time travel compared to Professor Bleak who isn’t.
Tegan gets sent back with Professor Bleak to the Dark Ages after following and discovering him stealing the sword of Æthelfrid. I liked it when Tegan pretends to be Æthelfrid’s daughter whilst the real one’s gone. Tegan gets to be a warrior princess in this dark history and she witnesses its horrors.
Sarah Sutton is superb as Nyssa in this adventure. Sarah clearly enjoyed doing this story, as she was able to follow and understand it due to it being a historical adventure. Nyssa is pretty good in this as she gets to be a moral supporter of the Doctor and share scenes with him travelling back to the past.
I liked it when Nyssa and the Doctor take the real Princess Ælfwynn back home to her time and they share the dangers together of being in ancient Mercia whilst also rescuing Tegan. I liked how Nyssa shares her intellect, even if she makes a mistake of stating the truth to others with good intentions.
Mark Strickson is also good as Turlough, although I found him sarcastic and irritating more than usual in this. I found it funny when Nyssa told Turlough off for talking with his mouthful whilst eating dinner. It was annoying when he let Ælfwynn get out of the science lab like that for no good reason.
Turlough makes a cup of tea for Dr Philippa Stone (which he is bad at, since he makes it too milky) and helps her to fix her time machine. He gets into a fight with a student called Barry who punched him on the nose, and both they and Philippa get sent back in time to the Dark Ages in her time machine.
Peter Davison is equally good as the Doctor. The Doctor uses a time tracer to locate the strange temporary activity that is going on at this university, bringing him and his friends there. I liked it when he’s working out what goes on at the conference in connection to the history of the Lady of Mercia.
I liked the moments when the Doctor attempts to defy Ælfwynn and her attack on the university grounds. He tries to reassure her getting her back to her time and place. It was fun listening to the Doctor with Nyssa travelling back to the past and dealing with the horrors of the events with Mercia.
Anthony Howell guest stars as Professor John Bleak, who I’ve seen in a BBC production of ‘Wives and Daughters’ and he has a done a number of Big Finish audios of ‘Doctor Who’. John Bleak is an expert on Mercia and he helps his wife Philippa Stone in her secret time-travel project before it goes wrong.
Abigail Thaw guest stars as Dr Philippa Stone. Philippa is a scientist who works at the university on her secret project to create a time machine. She gets distressed when her project goes wrong with putting the sword into her time machine and her husband John and Tegan getting sent back in time.
Rachel Atkins guest stars as Queen Æthelfrid, who I found interesting as a historical figure. Æthelfrid is a warrior queen who has been through a lot with ruling Mercia and warding off invaders. I liked her scenes with Tegan when asking her to impersonate her daughter and treating her like her daughter.
Catherine Grose guest stars as Princess Ælfwynn, daughter of Queen Æthelfrid. Ælfwynn is a fiery, spirited warrior princess who quickly accuses Tegan and John Bleak for sorcery. She gets zapped forwards in time to 1983 and she throws herself into battle when being scared in an unfamiliar time.
The cast also includes Kieran Bew as Arthur Kettleson and Stephen Critchlow (who I have seen in an episode of ‘Monarch of the Glen’) as the Earl of Wessex. Some of the cast have double parts to play in this story, since Rachel Atkins plays Dr Angeline Duchamp and Catherine Grose plays Molly Wright.
‘The Lady of Mercia’ has been a pretty good romp of an historical adventure. I enjoyed this one with the Doctor; Tegan; Turlough and Nyssa and I found it very refreshing. It isn’t exciting as many of the sci-fi adventures with this team, but I did enjoy how the characters were developed during this story.
The CD extras are as follows. At the end of Disc 1, there are two tracks of incidental music to enjoy. At the end of Disc 2, there is a trailer for the next story with the Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and Nyssa called ‘Prisoners of Fate’. There are also behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew including Peter Davison; Sarah Sutton; Janet Fielding; Mark Strickson; writer Paul Magrs; director Ken Bentley; etc.
I enjoyed listening to Sarah Sutton’s comments about how she feels about making these Big Finish audios. She clearly enjoys the solo adventures she has with Peter’s Doctor and exploring her relationship with him as Nyssa, since she enjoys exploring character relationships from these stories.
If you subscribe to Big Finish for ‘The Lady of Mercia’ via a 6 or 12 CD/Download subscription, you’ll get the following extras. There is a PDF script and extended extras of ‘The Lady of Mercia’.
This story comes at a critical point in this series of Fifth Doctor audios with Tegan, Turlough and the older Nyssa. The next story in this series of audio adventures changes everything that goes on with this TARDIS team. Will it be for the good or the bad? I was looking forward to finding out the answer.
‘The Lady of Mercia’ rating – 8/10
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