The long awaited release of the second volume of “Classic Doctors, New Monsters” arrives and opens with a really enjoyable near-hour of the Fourth Doctor finding out the previously-thought harmless Vashta Nerada can turn bad and watch people be stripped to their skeletons in a abandoned fun fair… It’s just as fun as it sounds! Let’s take a closer look…
Funworld was set to be the happiest planet in the galaxy. A planet of joy, of euphoria, of laughter and delight. Except construction was marred by reports of a predator and then, a few days before opening, all communication ceased.
Owner Georgia Donnelly is desperate to open the resort and has hired Amanda Steele’s crew to find out what happened on the planet. They’re the best. But even they might not be up to the task.
Joined by the Doctor and being picked off one by one, they slowly start to realise that something terrifying lurks in the shadows.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Doctor (Tom Baker) – Having just parted ways with Leela, The Doctor is looking for a bit of fun in his life again… but may have come to the wrong place…
Amanda Steele (Pam Ferris) – Leader of a group of “exterminators” who specialise in larger pray. She is hired by Funworld’s owner Georgia to kill whatever killed her employees, but this time she may have finally bitten off more than she can chew…
Georgia Donnelly (Lorelei King) – Rather money-obsessed business woman who wants nothing more than for this “little incident” to be out of the way so she can open her latest business venture…
I know I say it a lot, but: another striking cover from Big Finish!
Given the length on offer here there isn’t much time for character building and story arcs, so John Dorney (the writer of this story… obviously) reaches into the sci-fi cliché hand book and creates some familiar characters we all know and can pretty much guess what background they have in order to get their jobs in the story done. Steele is your classic gung-ho space marine type, Georgia is the money obsessed heartless CEO type, and there’s an emotionless “synthetic” and kind and gentle telepath… oh and a tech guy/pilot… for a short time. It means he can get straight to telling the story of the group with The Doctor surviving the Vashta Nerada and generally finding out who they are without needing to also expand on the human characters. It works well.
As for the story itself, it features the group trying to survive in an abandoned fair (or amusement park, if you will) and slowly but surely get taken out one by one, and while I never felt tense due to not really caring for the characters, I did enjoy hearing it all unfold and The Doctor’s reaction to it. It’s one of those rare stories where literally everyone dies and The Doctor leaves talking to himself… probably not the cheering up he was looking for!
Unlike some of the stories from the first set, this is The Doctor’s first encounter with the Vashta Nerada, at least the aggressive form anyway, and it’s written really well. If you had never seen the Tenth Doctor two-parter that spawned them you would think this is just a new story with a new enemy introduced through dialogue.
Although I understand and am mostly fine with the use of stock character types in this short of a story, I have to say that Steele was a tad bit… too stupid. A bunch of her allies are stripped to their skeletons in seconds by a near-invisible swarm of specs and she still wants to take it down like the rest of her hunting trophies… come on! Then she puts on some armour and walks out to the middle of a field and gets her synthetic buddy to start turning out the lights around them!? Talk about asking for it… jeez!
The cover for the overall boxset… a nice collection of Doctors!
The Vashta Nerada first appeared in the Tenth Doctor two-parter “Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead”. As with a lot of Russell T. Davies era Who, they were named as if The Doctor had encountered them before, making this story handily doable!
When first met, The Doctor says he’s still getting over the loss of a recent traveling companion. According to Big Finish themselves, this takes place right after Leela’s exit at the end of “The Invasion of Time”.
A strong opener to the set. It’s a quick survival horror story with some cheesy space marine sci-fi-ery (complete with flamethrowers at some point!) added on top. It’s a little thin in the character department, but it’s still a very fun listen.