Please feel free to comment on my review.
Four Adventures Where the Fifth Doctor Is Alone
Can Peter Davison’s Doctor survive without his friends?
When I finished the 2019 Big Finish set of ‘Doctor Who’ audio stories starring the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Marc, I was looking forward to the next set of stories. I didn’t expect that we’d be starting off with an anthology of four single-episode stories where the Fifth Doctor was travelling by himself.
I would’ve preferred it if we went straight back to the Fifth Doctor reuniting with his friends Nyssa, Tegan and Marc following the end of ‘Conversion’. But I suppose it was interesting to find out how the Fifth Doctor coped on his own spending ‘time apart’ away from his friends and how long it’d last.
‘Time Apart’ is of course a four single episode anthology similar to ‘Circular Time’ and ‘The Demons of Red Lodge and Other Stories’. I also would’ve preferred it if it was the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa together in this set as I love ‘Circular Time’ and ‘The Demons of Red Lodge and Other Stories’ a lot. 🙂
I was willing to be open-minded about whether this four episode anthology would work and how interesting it’d be to hear four episodes where the Fifth Doctor recovered from the events of ‘Conversion’. It’d take a while but I did look forward to reaching ‘Thin Time’/‘Madquake’ after this. 🙂
Incidentally, ‘Time Apart’ is dedicated to the memory of Tommy Donbavand who sadly died in May 2019. Tommy Donbavand wrote a number of ‘Doctor Who Adventures’ stories; wrote ‘Shroud of Sorrow’ with the Eleventh Doctor and contributed a tale for the ‘Time Apart’ anthology which is nice.
The first story of ‘Time Apart’ is ‘Ghost Station’ by Steve Lyons. I’ve come across Steve Lyons’ ‘Doctor Who’ work before since he wrote ‘The Fires of Vulcan’ and ‘Colditz’ with the Seventh Doctor. He’s also written a Fifth Doctor tale before – ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ for the ‘Destiny of the Doctor’ series. 🙂
In ‘Ghost Station’, the Fifth Doctor meets a young man called Peter Meier. Peter is patrolling the border in an underground station deep beneath the streets of East Berlin in 1975. Peter discovers a crumbled body that’s been shot in the underground station, but there’s more to this than it appears.
It was fascinating to hear this story featuring the Berlin Wall taking place in Berlin, Germany. I’m reminded of a novel I read at school (I forget its name) concerning the Cold War, the Berlin Wall and such. It was equally intriguing to hear how Peter Meier coped being a security officer in an underground station.
It’s also interesting how he reacted to the Doctor who turned up once the TARDIS arrived in that underground station. Timothy Blore guest stars as Peter Meier in this episode. I’ve heard Timothy Blore before since he played Morris in ‘Warzone’. Peter Meier’s character sadly has a tragedy in this.
It transpires that Peter was killed by an inter-dimensional being who wished to escape an alternate timeline. The being took Peter’s body and it’s when the Fifth Doctor arrives that they discover the original Peter’s body. Initially, Peter had assumed that it was his friend Fisher who got killed here. 😐
I like how Peter Davison’s Doctor gently persuaded the inter-dimensional being who took Peter Meier’s body to choose between existing as he was now or to give back the life the original Peter had. It took a while to pick up on this aspect of the story since I had no idea where the story went. 😀
I like the creepy atmosphere featured in this story and it helps that it’s only Peter Davison’s Doctor and Timothy Blore as Peter Meier who appear together in this. The passing of underground tube trains in the episode also adds to the creepy atmosphere since you don’t know what to expect here.
‘Ghost Station’ has been a nice episode to begin the ‘Time Apart’ anthology. It’s also interesting to hear the levels of grief and despair from not just Peter Meier but also from the Doctor too as he struggles to recover from ‘Conversion’. At the end, Peter decides to cross the border in East Berlin. 🙂
‘Ghost Station’ rating – 7/10
‘THE BRIDGE MASTER’
The second episode of ‘Time Apart’ is ‘The Bridge Master’ by Jacqueline Rayner. I’ve come across Jacqueline Rayner as a ‘Doctor Who’ writer before since she’s done books and audios for classic and new series eras. She has written for the Fifth Doctor before in one of ‘The Diary of River Song’ stories.
In this story, the Doctor visits Rowanfield in the early 14th century. Just for you to be sure, Rowanfield is a real-life neighbourhood in Cheltenham, England. I’m glad I checked this; otherwise I would have assumed it was a fictional place like in my stories such as Huttle and Churchwood Street.
Upon arrival, the Doctor gets caught in a trap where he has his shadow sacrificed by the villagers. A bit odd that, but this is ‘Doctor Who’ after all. Once his shadow gets taken away from him, the Doctor brushes it off, thinking of it as medieval superstition. But he begins to grow weak in the story.
With the help of local village girl Kate Harbour as Agatha, the Doctor uncovers the truth behind what’s going on with the bridge master’s curse. Hopefully he can uncover it before he fades away. Agatha becomes the Doctor’s sort-of one-off companion for this story of the ‘Time Apart’ anthology.
The story also features Wayne Forester as Clement, who happens to be the bridge master and eventually ends up being the villain of this tale. Timothy Blore returns again to play Lucas, Agatha’s son who was meant to get sacrificed in the Doctor’s place. The Doctor is taken instead on his arrival.
I’ve noticed that all the stories in ‘Time Apart’ have the Doctor trying to get to Earth in various time zones in the past. Understandable, since Earth happens to be the Doctor’s favourite planet. But how can the Doctor find rest on his favourite planet when so much trouble seems to be happening there?
I must admit, I did find the story quite underwhelming upon first listen since the ending seemed to be a bit rushed. I’m not sure I’m clear on what happened when the Doctor disabled the alien device that Clement was using to carry out sacrifices. Also, Clements seems to be left to suffer at the end. 😐
‘The Bridge Master’ is a decent entry in ‘Time Apart’. Once again, it features another great performance by Peter Davison as the Doctor and he has a nice interaction with Agatha. I think the story’s ending could have been tightened more in order to establish the confrontation with Clement.
‘The Bridge Master’ rating – 6/10
‘WHAT LURKS DOWN UNDER’
Here’s the story by the person that ‘Time Apart’ is dedicated to – Tommy Donbavand. Apparently, this story was recorded and released post-humorously following his battle with cancer and eventual death in May 2019. If I’m honest, I find ‘What Lurks Down Under’ to the best story of ‘Time Apart’. 🙂
This is because I was able to follow this story easily enough compared to the other stories featured in ‘Time Apart’ which I have found rather lacklustre. It was interesting to hear how Peter Davison’s Doctor interacted with a prisoner on a sailing ship and a prisoner I had no historical knowledge on. 🙂
The Doctor visits the Lady Juliana sailing ship. It travels through the Indian Ocean towards Australia. On board is Laura Aikman as Mary Wade. Apparently, Mary Wade was a real-life English convict who got banished to Australia in the late 18th century. I believe that Mary’s crimes involved stealing clothes.
Mary finds the prisoners aboard the Lady Juliana to be caught in a trance. When she meets the Doctor who comes to the ship in the TARDIS, they investigate why the crew has been caught in a trance. Also aboard the ship is Wayne Forester as Dr. Richard Alley. I believe he’s a fictional character.
It was fascinating to hear that the crew and prisoners aboard the Lady Juliana were caught in a trance because of the fish they ate. This soon leads the Doctor and Mary Wade to travel down to the ocean where they meet the giant fish-like Teuthis, voiced by Kate Harbour. They’re not of our world. 😀
I like how Mary interacts with the Teuthis when speaking on Earth’s behalf as the Doctor keeps out of it for a bit. That’s the sort of thing that Peter Capaldi’s Doctor would do, so it’s interesting how Peter Davison’s Doctor does it and I think it’s done in the most gentle and encouraging way possible.
Eventually, the Teuthis give the Lady Juliana a safe path to travel through the Indian Ocean when it becomes treacherous and the Doctor says farewell to Mary when she has to go to Australia. He encourages her, saying that he will watch over her now and again in the time she spends in Australia.
There is a subtle reference made to Tegan by the Doctor when he talks to Mary about a friend he knows that comes from Australia. I think more references to Nyssa, Tegan and Marc would’ve benefited ‘Time Apart’ a lot. Overall, ‘What Lurks Down Under’ is a nice story by Tommy Donbavand.
‘What Lurks Down Under’ rating – 8/10
‘THE DANCING PLAGUE’
The final story of ‘Time Apart’ happens to be ‘The Dancing Plague’ by Kate Thorman. Now, this happens to be Kate Thorman’s first ‘Doctor Who’ contribution to the world of Big Finish. She previously did a ‘Class’ audio adventure called ‘Catfish’. I have yet to watch and listen to ‘Class’ here.
‘The Dancing Plague’ involves the Doctor arriving in Strasbourg, France, July 1518. The country is at the height of the Dancing Plague. Now this does happen to be a real-life event in Strasbourg. I just wish that the execution of what happened with the Doctor being involved in events was a lot better.
In the story, the Doctor finds himself being thrust into a world of paranoia as he helps Kate Harbour as Margareta to sort out the dancing plague. But the Doctor struggles to bring peace to a city at odds with its own people, especially once Wayne Forester as Gerhardt tries to obtain the winning hand. 😐
I wasn’t sure what was going on with dancing plague and how it was caused. It doesn’t help when nobody in terms of history knew how the dancing plague was caused. I thought the story was getting somewhere when the mention of a meteorite was being made and I assume it was the cause of it. 😐
But towards the story’s conclusion, the Doctor is made to run away and flee from the people of Strasbourg chasing after him. And it seems that the Doctor’s escape into the TARDIS and leaving Strasbourg behind causes the dancing plague to end. Just like that! I found that rather disappointing.
Okay, I believe it was mentioned when the Doctor returned to Margareta to check on whether the meteorite had been destroyed or something, but it’s not clear whether destroying it caused the dancing plague to end or not. I know people’s beliefs are at the heart of the tale, but I was confused.
I also think it doesn’t help with the story being shorter compared to ‘What Lurks Down Under’ as that had more time to tells its story. I don’t know if scenes were cut from ‘The Dancing Plague’ (they probably were), but I think the tale could have been given more time than the shorter time it had. 😦
So yeah, ‘The Dancing Plague’ was rather disappointing to listen to. Again, not discrediting the performances of the actors as Peter Davison does well playing the Doctor here, but it feels unsatisfying when the final episode of ‘Time Apart’ doesn’t live up to the previous episode’s efforts.
‘The Dancing Plague’ rating – 4/10
‘Time Apart’ has been an intriguing if uninspiring Fifth Doctor audio anthology to listen to. I didn’t find it as good as ‘Circular Time’ and ‘The Demons of Red and Lodge and Other Stories’. I really wish Nyssa was in it, despite the historical stories it tells. ‘What Lurks Down Under’ is very good though! 🙂
The CD extras are as follows. At the end of Disc 1, there’s a track of incidental music to enjoy. At the end of Disc 2, there is a trailer for ‘Thin Time’/‘Madquake’ with Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding and George Watkins. There are also behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews with producer Scott Handcock, director Jamie Anderson, Peter Davison, etc.
If you subscribe to Big Finish for ‘Time Apart’ via a 6 or 12 CD/download subscription, you’ll get the following extras. There are PDF scripts and extended extras of ‘Time Apart’.
‘Time Apart’ rating – 6/10
|The previous story
For the Fifth Doctor was
|The next story
For the Fifth Doctor is
|Return to The Fifth Doctor’s Timeline|
|Return to The Doctors’ Timelines Index|
|Return to Doctor Who Timelines|
|Return to Doctor Who|
|Return to Sci-Fi|