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Herne the Hunter with the Sixth Doctor and Peri
This ‘Lost Story’ was not part of the original Season 23 of ‘Doctor Who’ back in the 1980s.
In fact, this story was ‘considered’ for Season 22 of the classic ‘Doctor Who’ back in the 1980s. ‘Leviathan’ is a ‘Doctor Who’ story I knew little about. In fact, this story wasn’t part of the original Big Finish schedule of stories for the Lost Season 23 onto audio. It came as a bonus story for Big Finish.
Unlike ‘The Nightmare Fair’ and ‘Mission to Magnus’ before it, ‘Leviathan’ wasn’t highlighted in ‘The Lost Season’ DVD special feature on ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ DVD. It came as a surprise to me that there were more tales considered for the TV series than ones highlighted in the ‘Doctor Who’ DVDs.
‘Leviathan’ is a 2 x 50-minute story by Brian Finch and Paul Finich. Brian Finch originally pitched the story to the ‘Doctor Who’ production team in the 1980s, but it was never accepted. It came as a big disappointment for Brain Finch, as he’d written the full script for TV and that he loved ‘Doctor Who’.
His son, Paul Finch, thankfully got a hold of his father’s original TV scripts and sent them to Big Finish for consideration into the Lost Season 23 of ‘Doctor Who’ with Colin Baker as the Doctor and Nicola Bryant as Peri. The producer David Richardson asked if they could adapt ‘Leviathan’ for audio.
The executive producer for Big Finish, Jason Haigh-Ellery, gave his approval and ‘Leviathan’ was adapted for audio by Paul Finch. It’s amazing that they managed to slot this story into the schedule for the Lost Season 23 at the last minute. It comes across a very thrilling and imaginative adventure.
I wondered what ‘Leviathan’ was like and whether it would work as a story for audio as opposed for TV. Would it be exciting as the Big Finish team and the ‘Doctor Who’ fans claim? Would I be sucked in to the imaginative thrills of this tale? Well quite surprising, I was and it works well as an audio tale.
The story has the Sixth Doctor and Peri in the TARDIS arriving in a woodland area seemingly somewhere in the medieval times. There’s a castle nearby and the Doctor and Peri notice somebody’s in trouble. They go and help before getting chased by fierce dogs and Herne the Hunter.
As the story progresses, the Doctor and Peri notice that things aren’t quite what they seem. They discover that the medieval inhabitants are using advanced weapons such as laser bows which are anachronistic in this time. And there’s rebellion against the rules of the world that our heroes are in.
I like how the story changes by the time we come to the end of ‘Part One’. For most of ‘Part One’, it feels like an historical adventure with some pseudo science-fiction elements added in. You’d think you’re on Earth with the Doctor and Peri, but then it turns out they’re actually on a giant spaceship.
That was such a twist I did not expect. Even when I heard this story for the first time, I didn’t expect that cliff-hanger ending to be a shocking twist. It changes everything by the time we come to ‘Part Two’, as the Doctor and Peri work out what’s going on and why this medieval world’s on a spaceship.
Unlike ‘The Nightmare Fair’ and ‘Mission to Magnus’ before this, ‘Leviathan’ moves at a pretty fast pace. I’d be committing sacrilege by saying ‘Leviathan’ fares better than all the other stories of this Lost Season 23. I would like to see what this tale would be like if it was made for TV instead of audio.
Although as Nicola Bryant said in the CD interviews, the special effects for the story would be have been terrible if made for TV. I think ‘Leviathan’ works well for audio as it has the tension and energy it requires for that medium. You’d get the eerie, spooky atmosphere that you’d want a tale on audio.
There is also a good sense of strong character development and interaction between characters through the dialogue. I imagine a lot of this story would have been filmed outside on location if it’d be made for TV, whereas the spaceship sequences would have been filmed in studio onto videotape.
Colin Baker is brilliant as the Doctor in this adventure. There are moments when he can be brash, unsympathetic and even harsh, especially when Peri’s concerned for the young man named Gurth being chased by Herne the Hunter and his dogs. But the Doctor does improve with compassion later.
The Doctor gets curious about what’s going on with the villagers in this medieval environment and even tries to interact with a few of them to get some answers. After he’s given bread and cheese by Osbert the local vicar, he’s taken away to see the Baron. Apparently the villagers don’t like strangers.
I liked it when the Doctor confronts the Baron; works out what Zeron is and how he, Peri and Gurth discover they’re on a spaceship. It was thrilling when the Doctor confronted the two bad guys on the spaceship and he threatened them with Herne the Hunter unless they stopped what they are doing.
Nicola Bryant is equally great as Peri in this adventure. Peri comes across as being proactive, which was always there in the TV series but never properly exploited. She demonstrates her resourcefulness, especially when she’s coping alone without the Doctor and interacting with others.
It was tense when Peri was caught and locked up with Gurth before being questioned by Wulfric and his gang of followers. Peri gets bullied by Eada during the interrogation in her prison cell, since she’s suspected of knowing what’s going on. It was tense when Wulfric almost fired a laser bow onto Peri.
I liked the scenes Peri shares with Gurth in this adventure, especially when they’re trying to get through the woodlands and trying to find the Doctor. Peri gets anxious when wanting to go back and look for the Doctor in the castle after leaving him. Peri also argues with Wulfric during some scenes.
The main guest star for ‘Leviathan’ is Jamie Parker as Wulfric, the leader of the rebel group in this medieval environment called the Pariahs. Jamie Parker is known for starring in ‘The History Boys’ for film, theatre and radio. He also starred in the film, ‘Valkyrie’, starring Tom Cruise, which I’ve seen.
Wulfric is an outcast who has defied the ways of the village in this medieval environment where a certain Time for people comes. He leads the Pariahs group and wants to kill Herne the Hunter. He spotted the Doctor and Peri walking down a river. He also considered shooting Peri with a laser bow.
In ‘Part Two’ of the story, Wulfric was captured and tortured by the Baron to give the location of his people’s hideout. Thankfully he didn’t and was freed by the Doctor, Peri and his fellow Pariahs. He happens to be an archer and seems a decent leader of the Pariahs, even when he seems disagreeable.
The guest cast also includes Howard Gossington as Gurth, the terrified young man who the Doctor and Peri rescue when he flees from fate as well as Herne the Hunter and his dogs. Howard Gossington also plays Thurstan, one of the Pariahs; and he plays Soltan, one of the spaceship’s crew.
There’s also John Banks as Herne the Hunter, who appears as like a skull-like, fleshy man in a dark cowl with antler horns on the sides of his head and rides a horse. John Banks also plays the Baron working for Zeron as well as Osbert the village vicar. He also plays Chandris, the spaceship’s captain.
Beth Chalmers is also in this story playing a variety of characters. She plays Althya, a young, timid village girl in the story as well as Eada, one of the Pariahs who doesn’t like Peri much. Beth also plays Maude, Osbert’s housekeeper in the story as well as the evil Zeron which happens to be a computer.
There’s also Derek Carlyle, who’s done a lot of Big Finish audios including ‘The Lost Stories’ in ‘Doctor Who’. In this story, he plays Siward, another one of the Pariah rebels. He also plays the Master-Serjeant who bullies the Doctor in certain scenes as well as Gregorian, another spaceship crewman.
The CD extras are as follows. At the start of Disc 1, there’s a trailer for ‘The Hollows of Time’ with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant. At the end of Discs 1 and 2, there are behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew including writer Paul Finch, Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Jamie Parker, etc.
‘Leviathan’ is a great instalment in the Lost Season 23 of ‘Doctor Who’ by Big Finish with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant. It’s amazing this story was never made for the TV series, although it’s understandable that it’d be pretty expensive to make. It works well on audio and is tense to listen to.
‘Leviathan’ rating – 8/10
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