The Demons of Red Lodge, and other stories – by Jason Arnopp, Rick Briggs, William Gallagher, & John Dorney
“Season 3” of Big Finish Folly climaxes with another collection of single-episode stories by a host of writers – though this time, unlike Circular Time, there is no thematic arc to bind them together. That makes this more of a mixed bag, but there are still some high points to run through.
The title tale is, on reflection, quite run-of-the-mill. The Doctor & Nyssa encounter vampiric aliens in 17th Century Norfolk, as you do, and quickly uncover a threat to the whole world… However, there is one twist to lift it above average, and that is Nyssa’s ideas and actions at the story’s climax.
The Entropy Composition ought to appeal to me as I am somewhat proggy myself. The tale is rather slight to my ears however, and suffers from being collected in the same batch as Special Features. That said, kudos to Rick Briggs, the author – this was picked from around 1200 submissions in a contest for new Big Finish writers, and I am suffering from an appropriate degree of envy.
Doing Time has the cool premise of the Doctor banged up for something wot he did not do. For a year. You can almost picture Peter Davison slumped in the cooler, thumping a cricket ball against the opposite wall… Incredibly, the story works within the tight time limits of a single episode, though it can only really do this by nudging Nyssa gently to one side. Excellent use of timey-wimey handwavium, too!
Special Features is definitely the pick of the bunch here. John Dorney’s clever script takes the form of a DVD commentary track for a 1970s horror film, featuring the film’s director, producer, and a couple of stars… including the Doctor. To say much more than this would probably be giving away too much, but this really is worth a listen. The Doctor’s slightly awkward participation is perfectly pitched, and the silences and pointless facts are comedy gold. Absolutely fantastic. You’ll never listen to another commentary track in the same way again.
Bonus review: Bernice Summerfield & the Dance of the Dead, by Stephen Cole
Hard on the heels of Plague Herds of Excelis, Benny finds herself both pickled and in another pickle when the starship she has been smuggled onto suffers a mysterious “accident” that wipes out the crew and most of the passengers. To make matters worse, Benny and Grand Marshall Sstac have been possessed by the memories of a mated pair of dead aliens… and the ship is headed for a collision with an asteroid…
Ah, better. I liked this one. A straight-forward plot, characters with ulterior motives, and a chance for the actors to play at being other people as well as their named characters! Lisa Bowerman is on top form as the narked archaeologist, forever put-upon and definitely hungover. Nice to see the Ice Warriors get in on the act too, martial and ill-tempered as ever. Big Finish are giving Benny more mental challenges than purely physical ones, which works a lot better given the format – difficult to talk about artefacts etc when you can’t really see them.