Big Finish: they love stories. And I would say some of this story is lifted from one of my favorite authors; the great H. P. Lovecraft with creatures from the deep terrorizing an Alaskan base. Another similarity to the works of good ol’ HP, is the requisite madman, this time as madman Shaun Brett spirals ever downward. The Land of the Dead puts the fifth Doctor and Nyssa in Alaska where the Doctor, true to form since his last story featuring Turlough, is on a mission to educate Nyssa. It’s shoehorned in but it’s not uninformative nor is it uninteresting. It’s just oddly placed. The way people describe where they are is cleverly done but it does strike a chord that this is all said for the benefit of the listener. Not that it detracts horribly, but it is noticeable. Also noticeable is that Tulong, one of the Alaskan natives, sounds distinctly Australian especially when he raises his voice. I’m no geography major, but I’m pretty sure those lands aren’t that close, beyond alphabetically, and probably did not see much cross breeding. One other big negative is that the story has the protagonists exposed to freezing water and brutal Alaskan winds, but the actors do not convey that. No sniffles, shivers, or coughs, and I felt that was an oversight on the part of Big Finish. They are usually so in tune with things like that. But there the negatives end.
The story is immediately interesting and the desolation of their locale comes across beautifully. The skeletal dinosaurs come across far better on audio than their living counterparts did in Doctor Who and they are adequately disconcerting. But stealing the show is Monica, played by Lucy Campbell. Her double act with the Doctor is wonderful and the comedy amidst the terror comes across very well. Here’s a woman who is terrified but copes by using a little sarcasm, and progresses through her own range along the way. There were a number of “laugh out loud” moments when she and the Doctor verbally spar especially when the Doctor’s response is so deadpan.
“Can I just say my shoes are completely ruined?”
“Evidently you can.”
There are other examples, but as I drive while listening, making notes is ill-advised. That said, this is one time where loud noises don’t have to end each episode. The first episode ends with the Doctor crying out “Nyssa” as monsters growl in the background, which is just as annoying as it sounds, but one episode ended with the Doctor speaking! “Dinner time so soon?” Not exactly edge of the seat without knowing the context. When known, well… that worked surprisingly well. Learning about Sedna and Alaskan myth was interesting and just the thing Doctor Who should be doing to educate listeners. This wasn’t the shoehorned education the Doctor goes through in the beginning of the story but delivered bit by bit as the story progressed.
If this CD did one thing, it was that it made me long for the good ol’ days of CDs again. Lately, I’ve been collecting my Big Finish digitally (after #75). But this one has a map of the base wherein the story takes place. I’ll start by saying, I didn’t exactly buy into this weird base: a structure like a museum that showcases landmasses, but having a map of the base did enhance my enjoyment. Sadly, it was retrospectively. I hadn’t noticed the map when I took the 2 discs out and set them in my player. Oh, no! Captain Observation noticed when the story was over and I was putting the discs back in the case. Still, it was a nice touch and definitely would enhance the story for the listener if they are a bit more astute than I.
It’s pretty evident that Big Finish was finding their … ears by this story. The quality is improving and I didn’t think there was really anything wrong with the previous ones. With a trend like this, there’s only one direction these will go…. ML