Please feel free to comment on my review.
Leela’s Story of the Z’nai Begins
This is the fourth story of Series 2 in the ‘Companion Chronicles’ of ‘Doctor Who’ by Big Finish!
‘The Catalyst’ is an amazing and intriguing Big Finish audio of ‘Doctor Who’ from the Fourth Doctor era. It stars Louise Jameson as Leela, companion of the Fourth Doctor. It’s also a two-part story by Nigel Fairs, who is a huge fan of Leela! This is beginning of a sad story since Leela is at the end of her life.
Leela is a very popular companion from the Fourth Doctor era of ‘Doctor Who’ with Tom Baker. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Louise Jameson at conventions and she knows who I am now. 🙂 I’ve enjoyed the Big Finish audios featuring Leela and she’s become a more interesting character lately.
The main story of ‘The Catalyst’ takes place during Leela’s travels with the Doctor, which is sometime between ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ and ‘Horror of Fang Rock’. It’s narrated by Leela, who is now older; dying and under cruel interrogation by the warrior-like Z’nai who require information of her.
I found this an interesting stage of Leela’s life when she is on the verge of death whilst recollecting her memories of ‘The Catalyst’ story with the Z’nai. It obviously takes place after Leela’s life on Gallifrey and the ‘lost world’ the Z’nai speak of must be Gallifrey as it was lost during the Time War.
I like how Leela recollects her travels with the Doctor at death’s door whilst being interrogated by the Z’nai. It’s strange to hear Leela being old and on the verge of death. But she’s strong and refuses to submit to the Z’nai’s torturous interrogation of her as she’s a true savage and isn’t afraid of anything.
In the story of ‘The Catalyst’, Leela recollects a time when the Doctor took her to learn good manners at an Edwardian house of an old friend of his – Joshua Douglas. But at the house, she discovers the Doctor’s trophy room and finds a Z’nai warrior who’s been held a prisoner by the Doctor.
I like how Leela gets to continue her education with the Doctor as they go to Joshua Douglas’ house. It put in mind of Leela’s earlier appearances in ‘Doctor Who’, particularly with ‘The Talons of Weng-Chaing’. Leela also makes some interesting discoveries about the Doctor’s past in meeting the Z’nai.
I certainly like how Leela contrasts with Edwardian society and how she reacts to moral standards and values at the time. Nigel Fairs touches upon Leela’s questioning of women’s roles in Edwardian society. This is evident when Leela interacts with Jessica, Joshua Douglas’ very silly and girly daughter.
I liked the comparison between Leela and Jessica when they go down into the cellar and find the Doctor’s trophy. Jessica is pretty squeamish and Leela scorns her when she’s girly. I liked it when both talked about the books they’ve read and the reference with Leela as Eliza Doolittle, put in by Nigel Fairs.
Nigel Fairs clearly loves the character of Leela and enjoys writing for Louise Jameson as well as directing her in this audio story. Nigel captures the atmosphere of this story well, as it feels gothic and unnerving, which is appropriate. I do like it how he writes for the Fourth and Leela in this adventure.
Louise Jameson is lovely to hear as a reader on audio. I was easily captivated by Louise’s reading for this story and when she plays Leela recollecting events of ‘The Catalyst’. Louise closely connects to the character of Leela, since she knows her inside-out and established her for what she is in the TV series.
I thoroughly enjoyed how Leela reflects on her life, both when she’s travelling with the Doctor and when she’s held under interrogation by the Z’nai at the end of her life. I liked how Leela questioned the Doctor’s motives when she learns of what he did to the Z’nai prisoner and she questions her own savagery.
Louise’s impersonation of Tom Baker’s Doctor is brilliant! I liked the tone Louise captures for Tom’s Doctor. She manages to get the eccentricity as well as the fieriness of Tom’s Doctor in this audio. It was interesting how Leela sees the Doctor whenever he observes her or he becomes angry with her.
I was intrigued to discover that Joshua Douglas was an old friend and companion of the Doctor’s from a previous life. One wonders how and when Joshua meet the Doctor and which incarnation it was. It turns out Joshua was involved with the Doctor’s capture of the Z’nai at his house when imprisoning it.
I had goosebumps when the Doctor got angry with Leela after she left Jessica with the Z’nai warrior in his trophy room at the house. There was a moment when Leela thought the Doctor was going to hit her at some point. It does emphasise how Tom’s Doctor can be quite frightening to Leela sometimes.
Timothy Watson voices the Z’nai in this audio adventure with Leela. The Z’nai are vicious warrior-like aliens in battle armour that the Doctor has met before. They also become a terror for Leela, both in this story and later on in her life when they’re torturing and interrogating her for vital information.
The voice that Timothy Watson gives to the Z’nai is quite chilling and disturbing to listen to. The Z’nai seem superior and righteous in their ways, especially when the Doctor challenges them on their justice and code of war. Leela also challenges them, even when the Z’nai invade Earth in ‘Part Two’.
The story ends on a rather depressing note with how the Z’nai get defeated and how the Doctor is disappointed about how he failed his friends and those in the future. Soon, the story ends with the Doctor and Leela leaving the Edwardian house behind. They burn it as they leave in the TARDIS.
It also seems like the interrogation for the older Leela by the Z’nai is still on-going since this is the first of a trilogy of Leela stories with the Z’nai by Nigel Fairs. Leela challenges the Z’nai by offering them a choice. It’s now getting tense and I wonder what will happen next in the second instalment of ‘The Z’nai Trilogy’.
The CD extras are as follows. There’s an enjoyable interview with Louise Jameson about the making of ‘The Catalyst’, conducted by writer/director Nigel Fairs. Sadly, there isn’t a trailer for the next ‘Companion Chronicle’ of ‘Doctor Who’ by Big Finish and there isn’t a suite of incidental music from this story which would’ve been very nice to listen to.
‘The Catalyst’ is a very gripping ‘Companion Chronicle’ featuring Louise Jameson as Leela from the Fourth Doctor era. I found Louise very engaging to listen to as she reads this story well on audio. At this point, I wonder what will happen next for Leela as she continues to be cruelly interrogated by the warrior Z’nai.
‘The Catalyst’ rating – 8/10
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