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Return to E-Space on Isenfel
“Isenfel be constant! Isenfel be constant!”
‘Equilibrium’ is the second story in the ‘Return to E-Space’ trilogy with the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and the older Nyssa, starring Peter Davison; Janet Fielding; Mark Strickson and Sarah Sutton. I enjoyed listening to this story. It’s pretty complex, but it’s a good romp of an adventure!
This four-part story is by Matt Fitton, who writes for the first time for this TARDIS team. I’m impressed by Matt’s story, as he’s created an intriguing, alien world and writes well for the regulars.
I’ve had the CD cover of ‘Equilibrium’ (as well as the other two stories in the ‘Return to E-Space’ trilogy) signed by the lovely Sarah Sutton at the ‘H-Con’ convention in Eastleigh, Hampshire in July 2015. Sarah likes this CD cover and the covers for the other two stories in the trilogy. I agree they are very good.
‘Equilibrium’ follows on directly from where the previous story, ‘Mistfall’, in the trilogy ended. The Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough in the TARDIS are on the trail for Pik Solus who has stolen the interface stabiliser. Without that component, the Doctor and friends will never get out of E-Space.
The TARDIS soon crashes on the planet Isenfel. It is a world covered in ice and snow and the Doctor and friends are soon bitterly cold. They soon come across snarling beasts until they are rescued by the inhabitants of Isenfel. They’re welcomed by the queen and princess who offer their hospitality.
But Isenfel isn’t the fairy-tale kingdom it’s made out to be. It soon transpires that Isenfel is in a ‘state of equilibrium’. Isenfel must be kept constant. To do that, Queen Karlina relies on Balancer Skarsgard to maintain equilibrium by killing four servants so that the Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and Nyssa can live.
I found this a fascinating and intriguing story to listen to by Matt Fitton. I must admit I was pretty baffled and overwhelmed by what was going on in ‘Equilibrium’ and this alien world that the Doctor and his friends visit. But after enjoying this story with a second listen, I was able to understand it better.
I’m very pleased that there’s more to E-Space compared with what was shown originally in ‘The E-Space Trilogy’. There are more planets to discover in this strange universe and Matt Fitton depicts a strange world that is in itself very logical and pretty horrifying when brutal things happen on Isenfel.
I liked the cold wintery atmosphere and the fairy tale-like kingdom of Isenfel, that put me in mind of the Disney film ‘Frozen’. It’s pretty shocking and brutal when it turns out that the queen allows her balancer to kill people to stabilise Isenfel’s population and to maintain the balance and equilibrium.
Sarah Sutton is lovely as Nyssa (as I’m sure I’ve said many times before). I really like her performances as the older Nyssa in these stories and this trilogy is very good for her. Matt Fitton writes well for Nyssa, as he touches upon her motherly nature; wisdom; gentleness and experience.
Nyssa has some really nice scenes with the Doctor and has a nice scene with Queen Karlina where her regal bearing gets touched on and how she’s moved on from her Traken heritage. I liked it when Nyssa has faith in the Doctor and tells him never to give up since she’s a constant beacon for him.
Peter Davison gives a superb performance as the Doctor in this adventure. Peter’s Doctor tries to get involved and fix things when he believes that the way things are on Isenfel is wrong. When he does interfere, his actions really could make things worse for Isenfel and he quickly blames himself for it.
Janet Fielding is equally good as Tegan in this adventure. I liked how Tegan expresses her anxiety about the world of Isenfel; how things are and how people treat her. She gets to look after babies, which is interesting compared to Nyssa who is a mother already, and gets to ride out in the snow.
Mark Strickson is great to listen to as Turlough. Turlough has his own adventure as he goes with Princess Inger out on the snowy plains to hunt for wild beasts, which gets him anxious. The princess takes a shine to him, and there’s a hint of a romance between him and her which startles Turlough.
I saw Sarah and Mark together at the ‘Time Warp’ convention in Weston-super-Mare, July 2014. They were discussing the trilogy at the convention. I helped with telling them that ‘Equilibrium’ was the title of the second story. Sarah and Mark were surprised how I knew this as I looked it up on the Big Finish website.
Annette Badland guest stars as Queen Karlina. I’ve met Annette at the ‘Dimensions 2013’ convention in Newcastle, October 2013. She played Margaret Blaine the Slitheen in some Christopher Eccleston episodes of ‘Doctor Who’. It was nice to hear her in this story and she delivers a terrific performance as Queen Karlina.
Nickolas Grace guest stars as Balancer Skarsgard. Nickolas has played Straxus in one of the Paul McGann audio stories called ‘Human Resources’. Here he delivers an interesting performance as Balancer Skarsgard who tries to maintain balance on Isenfel, even if it means the deaths of people.
There’s also Joanna Kirkland as Princess Inger, Queen Karlina’s daughter who fanices Turlough; John Albasiny as Jesper who serves Princess Inger and Ella Kenion as Romy, Jesper’s wife and a mother.
There are wild beasts that appear in this story called the snow beasts. They sound terrifying on audio and they put me in mind of the Wargs that featured in ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ films.
Something important happens, as the Doctor tampers with a dangerous experiment to keep Isenfel constant. An entropy field gets released which becomes significant in the final story of this trilogy.
‘Equilibrium’ has been great to listen to. I enjoyed Matt Fitton’s story with the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough, as he writes very well for them. It’s a pretty complex and thought-provoking tale, but after a second listen I was able to appreciate this story better and enjoy the romp of the adventure.
The CD extras are as follows. At the end of Disc 1, there is a suite of incidental music to enjoy. At the end of Disc 2, there are behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew including Peter Davison; Sarah Sutton; Janet Fielding; Mark Strickson; Annette Badland; writer Matt Fitton; etc.
I enjoyed hearing Sarah Sutton’s comments about ‘Equilibrium’. It’s interesting with Sarah pointing out that this trilogy has the strongest set of stories for older Nyssa, since she feels the earlier stories are rather for younger Nyssa. This is significant as this is the penultimate adventure for Nyssa of Traken.
There is a trailer for the next story with the Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and Nyssa called ‘The Entropy Plague’.
If you subscribe to Big Finish for ‘Equilibrium’ via a 6 or 12 CD/Download subscription, you’ll get the following extras. There is a PDF script and extended extras of ‘Equilibrium’.
At the end of this story, the Doctor gets the interface stabiliser for the TARDIS back. But Tegan has been kidnapped. The Doctor, Nyssa and Turlough are shocked. Why has Tegan been kidnapped?!
Will the Doctor, Nyssa and Turlough save Tegan as the ‘Return to E-Space’ trilogy comes to an end?
‘Equilibrium’ rating – 8/10
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