Big Finish Folly, Part 56 – The Nightmare Fair, by Graham Williams
Ah, Blackpool! Sun, sea, sand, and amusement arcades! And missing persons! And nefarious secret projects! And an aulde enemy! What better way to start off a season of Lost Stories than with the Celestial Toymaker himself?
For the next few weeks we are indeed in the realms of the Lost Stories, those missing adventures that should have followed Revelation of the Daleks on TV. For the most part these stories survive in varied states of completeness; The Nightmare Fair actually got as far as being novelised by Target way back when.
Ever one for games, The Toymaker has been stranded on Earth for centuries, plotting his way off the planet. Now he’s managed to divert the Tardis from its path so that he can play one more game with his old adversary, the Doctor. Meanwhile, young Kevin is looking for his brother, who has gone missing amidst the amusment arcades of Blackpool. The Doctor and Peri must work together with a clutch of alien misfits (and Kevin) to defeat the Toymaker.
Alright, it’s not bad. Not brilliant, but not bad. Having already heard The Elite and the other Davison Lost Stories, I was hoping to have my breath fair taken away by this one – which was actually the first release in the Lost Stories range. Looking at it with less stellar expectations, it still holds up as what would be a reasonable TV story for the time. You can picture the creepy arcades and fair rides with ease (with much work put in by Jamie Robertson on the score and sound design), though the captive aliens are harder to visualise. I haven’t personally encountered the Toymaker before, so it’s difficult to compare David Baillie’s performance with that of Michael Gough in 1966.
I think the main problem is one of tone: The Nightmare Fair is never entirely certain if it should turn to humour or not, and the sections where it should be most serious (the off-stage game of backgammon; the Toymaker’s fate) lose impact as a result of that. As it was essentially a complete story before the TV season was abandoned, Peri is also less than she has become over the course of the Davison plays. Contrast this (again) to The Elite, which had both Tegan and Nyssa clearly defined, yet both in character with their present Big Finish personas.
As I say, not brilliant, but not bad.