The Whispering Forest, by Stephen Cole
Looking for traces of the supervirus now loose in the galaxy, the Tardis materialises on a forested world. Dark spirits infest the air, and the hygiene-obsessed humans living in an encampment by the bay are being picked off and carried away by the Takers if they fall sick… and carrot-topped Turlough resembles the colour of a Taker…
There’s a backstory hidden here, and most of the adventure is spent unravelling it. Yes, this is another Lost Colony affair, with rituals and habits distorted by time, but it’s an effective device to keep the characters moving on through the stages of their conflict. That conflict is primarily between Seska, played by Hayley Atwell, and Sue Wallace’s Mertil – the daughter and second wife respectively of the recently-taken leader of the colony – and the dynamic changes suitably with each fresh revelation.
I have to say that the tight focus on dirt and hygiene becomes slightly hysterical and comedic as the play goes on – where the heck do they get all their handwash from, eh? The other thing that doesn’t quite work for me, and could easily have been lost without affecting the play as a whole, is the idea of the spirits that come out to play whenever the Takers are about: their existence is explained quite late on, through one of those freak inter-dimensional instabilities that always seem to be cropping up, but though they do turn out to be part of the main plot they almost seem bolted on as an afterthought to give the Doctor an easy solution.
And, speaking of the Doctor, for once a lot of the action is going on around him and without him as he tries to negotiate his and Tegan’s safety with Seska and Mertil. Turlough and Nyssa get much more of the running and exploring to do, which thankfully allows the story to play out in pieces rather than have all the revelations fall in one almighty boom.