“Nothing like a jolly old yomp before breakfast”
Between Pengriffen and Tremayne lies Lanyon Moor. Saturated with the historical relics of prehistoric man, this misty and desolate Cornish landscape is where the Doctor and Evelyn find themselves drawn into an ancient conflict nearing its conclusion.
Teaming up with his old friend, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, the Doctor must discover the secrets of the ancient fogou – and face the power of the Tregellan.
This is, quite simply, excellent! Even better than Whispers of Terror and The Land of the Dead. The story is old style Doctor Who and would be right at home amongst the very best of the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era of the show. I’m thinking Zygons, Fang Rock, Seeds of Doom…there’s a megalomaniac in an empty old mansion, a stranded alien roaming the creepy, misty moors at night, gruesome killings and it’s all set in a part of the country that’s steeped in myth and legend. All you need now is the Brigadier…
The Sixth Doctor is the only one in the original run that the Brigadier never met so it was always going to be a bit of an event when it happened here and it’s worth it, Nicholas Courtney is spot on, as you would expect. The Brigadier has a big part in this story and works really well with Colin Baker’s Doctor; in fact all three of the leads work well together and are a lot of fun to listen to.
Evelyn is much better in this story, everything about her character that prevented me from warming to her in The Marian Conspiracy is gone and she is exactly the right companion for this Doctor and also for this story. Since most of the other characters are older, Evelyn is able to interact with them on much more of an equal footing than Peri or Mel would. It makes the whole thing a little more adult. Colin Baker is excellent and builds wonderfully on the ‘new’ Sixth Doctor that started to emerge in The Marian Conspiracy. The pomp and bluster is still there – a great outburst towards one of the other characters reminds us of this side to him – but he is essentially calmer, more thoughtful, charming even and an altogether nicer person. It’s as if he’s mellowed over time and has found his inner Time Lord. This is the Sixth Doctor that should have been and it’s a joy to have him like this.
As far as everyone else is concerned, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about, Helen Goldwyn starts off a long and successful Big Finish career in a cracking story and the two guest actors, well… Doctor Who made a name for itself as a show that everyone wanted to be in at some point (they all said they did it for their kids, but you know, I wonder…) and Big Finish are continuing that tradition with The Spectre of Lanyon Moor. Susan Jameson and James Bolam do wonders with their characters – especially Jameson who makes the most of what seems to be quite a thankless role until Part Four - James Bolam of course plays his part wonderfully and has some great scenes with Maggie Stables. Not wanting to take anything away from the other actors but there’s something about having established actors involved that just enhances the whole thing.
The music is suitably atmospheric and the sound design is brilliant, every room and location really does sound like they actually recorded it in those places and that impressed me straight away. The cliffhangers are good, especially the first one and the whole story drips with atmosphere.
Part One is nearly 37 minutes long but it didn’t bother me in the slightest because even though there’s not much threat evident until the end of the episode, it’s thoroughly entertaining and has a sense of mystery straight away that builds up to it. There is a very nice touch in the fact that as Cornish places and people often have the prefix Tre on their names and the alien Sancreda is from a race called the Tregellan, the implication is there that Sancreda’s presence over the last eighteen thousand years has influenced the locals over time. It’s a subtle touch, which adds to the atmosphere.
There aren’t many negative points to this story at all, Professor Morgan is one of those characters you’d often see in the Pertwee and early Tom Baker eras; the loud, sceptical authority figure who thinks it’s all a load of rubbish and is pretty much unnecessary to the proceedings and Evelyn spends most of the last three episodes getting captured, escaping and getting captured again, just like in so much of the old series. Although that’s not really a negative because one of the things that makes this so good is that it does feel like part of the old series. And, thinking about it, Professor Morgan isn’t unnecessary, partly for the same reason but also because you always have other people about in the background, not involved in what you’re doing, that’s natural and realistic and enhances the setting. So okay, scratch those as negatives.
Unfortunately, I can’t argue my way past the dialogue problems, occasionally there are some moments where the dialogue is a bit clumsy and there are also some quite long exposition scenes that can’t be disguised as anything other than “we have to get the explanation bit done so we’ll just have to stick it here”. I didn’t think much to the character of Ludgate either but neither of these complaints is enough to spoil my enjoyment of this story.
Great performances and a first class story lead to a traditional Doctor Who adventure of a kind that Colin Baker never got to do on television and it works brilliantly. I can put this alongside my favourite TV stories quite happily. Bloody Well Done.
The Doctor: Colin Baker | Evelyn: Maggie Stables | The Brigadier: Nicholas Courtney
With: James Bolam (Sir Archibald Flint); Barnaby Edwards (Philip Ludgate/Scryfan); Helen Goldwyn (Nikki Hunter/Pelagia Stamatis/Corporal Croft); Susan Jameson (Mrs Moynihan); Toby Longworth (Professor Morgan/Sancreda/UNIT Sentry); Nicholas Pegg (Captain Ashforde)
Writer & Director: Nicholas Pegg | Music: Alistair Lock | Release Date: June 2000 | Running Time: 2 hours 7 minutes | Number of Episodes: 4
Set Between:The Marian Conspiracy and Time and the Rani.