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Yes Nyssa! You shall go to the ball!
This is the last story of the 2014 trilogy with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa!
I was so sad that this trilogy came to an end as I enjoyed it so much with Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton as the Doctor and Nyssa! This trilogy has been one I’ve greatly enjoyed in a long time and ‘Masquerade’ rounds off the trilogy on a resounding and high note. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this audio!
I’ve had all the CD covers of the three stories of the 2014 Fifth Doctor trilogy (including ‘Masquerade’) signed by the lovely Sarah Sutton at the ‘Time Warp’ convention in Weston-super-Mare, July 2014. I’m very pleased that I’ve had all three stories of this trilogy signed by Sarah Sutton.
The Doctor and Nyssa arrive in France 1770, with their new friend Hannah Bartholemew, at the palace of Marquise De Rimdelle, surrounded by a strange mist. They’re welcomed by Rimdell, but something odd is going on, as the French setting’s shadows unfold and the Steamroller Man comes…
This four-part story is by Stephen Cole, who has written for the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa before in their first Big Finish audio together called ‘The Land of the Dead’. The Fifth Doctor era is Stephen’s favourite of ‘Doctor Who’, so it’s no surprise he enjoyed writing this for the Doctor and Nyssa again.
I really liked how this story opens in a French setting as it suits the Doctor and Nyssa well, especially with the Doctor’s powdered wig and Nyssa’s aristocratic clothes. This story has a ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ feel to it. Although I haven’t seen that film, I can still take in the French setting in this audio.
The French setting soon changes, as it turns out that we’re not in France 1770 at all. We’re actually in ‘Shadow-Space’, that is a dream-like world generated by computers in a pocket universe. It put me in mind of the holodecks featured in ‘Star Trek’ and the danger room in ‘X-Men’ which is intriguing.
I really liked Sarah Sutton as Nyssa in this story. I liked Nyssa in a French setting, although I wish she got to dance as she could have gone to a French ball. Nyssa’s dancing could have made this story feel like ‘Black Orchid’, my favourite TV story. I’ve written my own story where Nyssa visits Cannes.
Nyssa happens to be the Doctor’s young ward, just as Hannah is her governess. I really liked it when Nyssa walks through a garden and it reminds her of the grove in ‘The Keeper of Traken’. I really liked how Nyssa truly cares for the Doctor and gets to show her compassionate and caring side in this story.
I enjoyed Peter Davison as the Doctor and how he blends into French society at the beginning. He comes to realise that not all is what it seems and he rids himself of the powdered wig. He solves the mystery, working out who and what the mysterious ‘Dead Man’, Maschera and Steamroller Man are.
The Doctor tries to pull everyone together in this dangerous situation and work out how to escape Shadow-Space. He gets shocks when the Maschera aren’t who they are and when Nyssa gets ‘rolled over’. The Doctor has to make some hard choices. It could mean the loss of one of his companions.
Francesca Hunt returns to ‘Doctor Who’ as Hannah Bartholemew. Hannah made her first appearance in ‘Moonflesh’ and appeared in ‘Tomb Ship’ joining the Doctor and Nyssa. I wondered what Hannah’s story was going to be like in ‘Masquerade’. She seemed to work well with the Doctor and Nyssa here.
I chatted to Sarah about Hannah at the ‘Time Warp’ convention in Weston-super-Mare. Both of us agreed Hannah is a great character. This has turned out to be ‘The Hannah Bartholomew Trilogy’, although these stories do standalone in terms of identity and don’t need to be listened to in order.
I was pleasantly surprised that Victoria Hamilton guest stars as Marquise De Rimdelle. Victoria is well-known for period dramas like ‘Lark Rise To Candleford’. I first saw Victoria as Queen Victoria in ‘Victoria and Albert’ and she would go on to appear in ‘Goodnight Mr Chips’ and many other things.
Rimdelle seems to be an aristocratic lady in France, when the Doctor; Nyssa and Hannah meet her. But it turns out Rimdelle isn’t what she seems and is a computer whizz and engineer. This is quite an unusual role for Victoria to play in a ‘Doctor Who’ audio, as she usually does period parts in dramas.
There’s also Rebecca Night as Helene, who happens to be Rimdelle’s niece. She seems quiet and reserved first. But there’s something mysterious about Helene, as Nyssa discovers when meeting her in the gardens. Helene knows that something is wrong, as she and Nyssa see the Steamroller Man.
As the story progresses, it turns out that Helene isn’t what she seems either and is the leader of a research team on a space station that has access to Shadow-Space. It was quite a contrast to hear Helene being so commanding and sometimes impatient, when things don’t go her way in this story.
There’s David Chittenden as Vicomte de Valdac. At first, Valdac seems like a noble gentleman who is a friend of Marquise De Rimdelle. He seems well-spoken and very gallant. But as the story goes on, it turns out he’s actually a pessimistic man who gets anxious when things go wrong in Shadow-Space.
Sean Brosnan guest stars as the ‘Dead Man’, and is a strange character indeed. We don’t know who he is or what his purpose is at first in Shadow-Space. He rambles on; seems deranged and gets scared when the Steamroller Man comes and seems to need his RATS. He has no eyes, but shadows.
Andrew Dickens guest stars as the Steamroller Man. I imagine this Steamroller Man looks like a robot in the shape of a man that trundles along on a steamroller wheel. The Steamroller Man happens to be the virus killer; has this deep, voice and he doesn’t make much sense when he speaks.
There’s also the Maschera, voiced by both Andrew Dickens and Sean Brosnan. They seem to like masked humanoids, acting as guardians for Shadow-Space. They’re like safe-guards who seem to be helping the Doctor and the others. But there is a lot more going on to these Maschera than it seems.
The story ends on a rather sad note, as Hannah makes a huge sacrifice to save the Doctor. As a result, it costs Hannah’s personality when she wakes up. She insists the Doctor and Nyssa leave. This was so upsetting to listen to for me, as Hannah’s time as a ‘Doctor Who’ companion was short-lived.
The CD extras are as follows. On Disc 1, there are seven tracks of incidental music to listen to. That’s right! Seven! On Disc 2, there’s a trailer for ‘Breaking Bubbles and Other Stories’ with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant. There are some behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew including Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, David Chittenden, writer Stephen Cole, director Ken Bentley, etc.
I’d like to dedicate this review to the CD mastering team and manufacturers of Big Finish. They’re the unsung heroes and it was unfortunate a mastering error had been found on one of the tracks of the original CD releases of ‘Masquerade’. But Big Finish responded to this crisis and I’m very grateful.
If you subscribe to Big Finish for ‘Masquerade’ via a 6 or 12 CD/Download subscription, you’ll get the following extras. There is a PDF script and extended extras of ‘Masquerade’. There’s also a bonus Short Trip called ‘Late Night Shopping’ with the Eighth Doctor, read by Hugh Ross.
‘Masquerade’ is a fine conclusion to this Fifth Doctor and Nyssa trilogy with Hannah Bartholemew. I really enjoyed listening to Peter and Sarah again as my favourite TARDIS team, even in this gripping and eerie audio adventure. I was so pleased to get the replacement Disc 2 so promptly by Big Finish.
‘Masquerade’ rating – 9/10
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