We’re running late this week, for which I can only apologise, as Real Life has inevitably gotten in the way of my schedule as it always does at this time of year (I hate Christmas). But while I try to convince another set of non-believers that no, Skyfall hasn’t come out on DVD yet fergawdsake, Big Finish Folly skips back in time once more to the end of “Season Three” of the Fifth Doctor’s tales…
1001 Nights, by Emma Beeby and Gordon Rennie, Jonathan Barnes, Catherine Harvey.
Here we go with another of Big Finish’s “anthology” plays, as seen previously in Circular Time and The Demons of Red Lodge. The former was pure class, and could hardly have been anything else given the involvement of Paul Cornell, while the latter held the best to last with John Dorney’s Special Features. This time, as the title makes clear, 1001 Nights riffs on the Arabian tales as Nyssa must spin tales to save herself and the Doctor from the clutches of a terrible Sultan…
The guest cast in this play is pretty special: Alexander Siddig (of DS9 infamy) is the Sultan, and Nadim Sawalha (from… all sorts of stuff, as well as being Julia & Nadia’s dad) is the madman in the dungeon. Either man would be a delight on their own; having both in one play is akin to being spoiled! Siddig does the sly, hungry Sultan to the verge of parody, becoming something else so gradually that you never quite notice the change – a superb performance. Nadim Sawalha gets a brilliant scene-stealing moment of his own as he finds himself outside the dungeon for the first time in years, causing the Doctor no end of bitter regrets.
It’s been a while since I heard the main pairing together, and the return to a younger, more naive Nyssa is a bit jarring having heard her more recently in such as The Butcher of Brisbane. But Sarah Sutton and Peter Davison slip into their old roles like they’ve never been away and the chance to catch up with their adventures in this fashion – three mini-adventures cupped inside the framing device of Nyssa’s tales to the Sultan – works far better than the more straight-forward Demons of Red Lodge did, giving an extra-deep filling to this Christmas pudding (sorry, I’m hungry, OK?) The stories themselves work on several different levels too, showing how well the Doctor and Nyssa work as a team – something the Sultan fails to appreciate until far too late. The tale that deals with tales themselves as a form of currency is particularly fun and works well at this length.
Very highly recommended.