‘THE LAND OF THE DEAD’
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An Adventure in Alaska with the Doctor and Nyssa!
‘The Land of the Dead’ is one of the most memorable ‘Doctor Who’ stories in Big Finish’s history.
It’s significant for being the first audio adventure with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa starring Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton. I’ve listened to other audio adventures with the Doctor and Nyssa before, including ‘Circular Time’. But it was nice to go back to the beginning where these adventures started.
I’ve had the CD cover of ‘The Land of the Dead’ signed by the lovely Sarah Sutton at the ‘Dimensions 2013’ convention in Newcastle, October 2013. I’m lucky to have met my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ star at a number of these conventions. Sarah’s a nice lady and appreciates my support of her in ‘Doctor Who’.
‘The Land of the Dead’ takes place after the departure of Tegan in ‘Time-Flight’. The Doctor and Nyssa’s first audio adventure also takes place in in Alaska where they arrive in 1964. During a snowstorm, the TARDIS almost collides with a plane before they dematerialise and end up in 1994.
The TARDIS detects strange energy readings within Alaska. The Doctor and Nyssa go out and explore before they run into some mysterious creatures. They race to the house of millionaire Shaun Brett and take refuge there. It isn’t long before strange creatures with flesh-bones come out and terrorise.
I liked this four-part story by Stephen Cole. This was gripping to listen to with the Doctor and Nyssa and the sound effects and music are atmospheric. I didn’t fully understand the Permian creatures, but the Alaska setting worked for me as the Doctor and Nyssa journeyed through the harsh blizzards.
This is a great story for Sarah Sutton as Nyssa as she’s tremendous. This is Sarah’s first Big Finish audio and she has fond memories of it. I remember Sarah saying at conventions and in a DVD interview about the first day’s recording and how everyone awed by her and Peter’s performances.
Sarah sounds exactly the same as Nyssa as she was in the TV series. Her voice hasn’t changed much and she still sounds young and lovely to listen to. Sarah’s chemistry with Peter is still the same and I like the camaraderie they share. This is where a long line of audios with Big Finish begins for Sarah.
Nyssa gets to have her own voice in this. I love the scenes between her and the Doctor in the TARDIS and when they journey through Alaska. I liked Nyssa’s scenes with Tulung. She forms a good friendship with him as they’ve both have lost their fathers. Nyssa shares an adventure with Tulung.
Nyssa’s psychic abilities are also utilised well as she gets to sense the Permian creatures in this. I liked it when Nyssa’s on the phone to the Doctor and she tells him to get out of there when one of the creatures breaks out. Nyssa does get taken hostage I’m afraid, but she stands up well to Brett.
Peter Davison is also great as the Doctor. His energy and enthusiasm is the same as ever. I enjoyed how he takes an interest in the mysterious things that happen in this story. He challenges Brett’s work and shows a concern for Nyssa. I liked it when he and Gaborik rescue Nyssa from the sea room.
I found the Doctor’s scenes with Monica Lewis very enjoyable to listen to. They bounce off well and she’s almost like Tegan in a way. The Doctor has to tolerate Monica in his polite manner. I like it that Peter’s Doctor works out the problem and he discovers more on what these creatures are all about.
The story’s guest cast is relatively small as it consists of four characters. But for their time in ‘The Land of the Dead’, these four characters are captivating to listen to and do have interesting journeys.
Lucy Campbell guest stars as Monica Lewis. Monica is an interior designer hired to build the monument in Brett’s Alaskan rock face. She’s spent three years of her life on this project and is easily frustrated. She complains to Brett; gets on well with Tulung and strikes a friendship with the Doctor.
When trouble starts, Monica becomes shocked and sickened when one of the Permian creatures breaks out. She can be quite squeamish, but she’s willing to help the Doctor despite her reluctance. I found it funny when the Doctor suggested having a cup of tea and he expected her to make him one.
Christopher Scott guest stars as Shaun Brett. Brett is a complex character as he has mysterious motives. He seems to be charming at first, but there’s more under that smooth surface. He’s had a rough patch from childhood and has set up his monument to honour his father who died years ago.
Brett has tied himself to Tulung as he blames his father for the death of his own father. There’s this bitter rivalry between Brett and Tulung and it has lasted for years since their fathers died. Brett loses it half-way in the story and goes mad when it builds to a final showdown between him and Tulung.
Neil Roberts guest stars as Tulung. I liked Tulung as he’s a good character who is torn in his tie to Brett. He’s a man of mixed heritage as he’s half-American and half-Koyukon that makes him more interesting in Eskimo origins. I liked it when Tulung explains to Nyssa and the Doctor about his past.
I liked Tulung’s relationship with Nyssa and how she connects to him. Nyssa reveals to Tulung what she saw with the plane accident that involved his father’s death. This leads to an awkward situation as Tulung believes Nyssa to be her guardian spirit. This is both a sweet and unnerving idea for Nyssa.
Andrew Fettes guest stars as Gaborik, a fifty-year old Eskimo. He works for Brett and isn’t a cheerful person. Gaborik makes no friends with anyone, despite him working for them. He has a very strong belief in the Raven Father; in the sea spirit called Sedna and also in Adlivum (‘the land of the dead’).
Gaborik doesn’t appreciate Tulung’s enthusiasm for the Koyukon and he threatens to leave Brett’s house when the Permian creatures revive and attack. Gaborik has an untimely and horrific demise at the end of ‘Part Two’ when one of the Permian creatures attacks him. Gaborik didn’t last long, hey?!
There are revelations, connections and references to the dinosaurs and ‘Earthshock’ in this story that I found interesting. It happens when the Doctor and Nyssa are investigating more about the Permian creatures. I liked those connections as it helps to make this story part of the Fifth Doctor adventures.
The CD extras are as follows. At the end of Disc 2, there are trailers for two ‘Doctor Who’ stories called ‘The Fearmonger’ and ‘The Genocide Machine’ with Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred. Inside ‘The Land of the Dead’ CD casing, there’s a floor map of Brett’s monument that is handy to use where listening to this story.
‘The Land of the Dead’ is a great start to the audio adventures of the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa with Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton. I enjoyed this story very much as it’s full of atmosphere and adventure. I cherish this adventure very much especially as it features my favourite TARDIS duo in it.
‘The Land of the Dead’ rating – 8/10
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