Nekromanteia was the 41st entry in Big Finish’s “Main Range” or “Monthly Range” of Doctor Who audios (released back in 2003), featuring Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, Nicola Bryant as Peri, and Caroline Morris as audio-only companion Erimem.
(Daily Doctor Who #237)
Big Finish is a mixed bag–sometimes you get really effective drama or funny satires, as we did with some of the releases I’ve listened to lately–Jubilee and Bang-Bang-a-Boom–and sometimes, you get Nekromanteia, a story full of the typical big ideas that Doctor Who is known for, but only occasionally arranged into a satisfying listening experience.
There were parts that were better then others, and most of them came in Episode 2 (of 4), as that was the bit where the Doctor spent the most time actually in the thick of the plot. Before that, he is off on another world being led to the adventure, and afterwards he spends much of his time in a strange fantasy world created by the guy you assume is going to be the story’s big bad, but turns out to be about the only guest character who isn’t morally reprehensible.
The whole thing is a bit reminiscent of The Caves of Androzani with its story about an evil business mogul playing both sides of a conflict being waged on a less developed world some distance away, who eventually gets disposed by his unassuming female second-in-command. And it’s also like Androzani in that all of the guest characters are corrupt and unsympathetic. But whereas in Androzani, that put it us into the midst of a highly taut drama, Nekromanteia just fills its time with lots of horrible people committing one act of gruesome violence after another.
Seriously, there are droves of off-screen victims being offered in blood sacrifice, one guy screaming as his tongue is cut out just prior to being murdered, and the Doctor himself being beheaded (which to be fair, makes for a pretty gripping cliffhanger). On top of all that, one of the less villainous guest stars actually attempts to sexually assualt Erimem! He doesn’t seem to have been completely successful in his intentions, but it’s kept a bit ambiguous.
In between all this unpleasantness are a bunch of underdeveloped story concepts which include a planet full of high-tech witches who cackle madly like something out of a Halloween-themed cartoon. And then at the end, everything is solved thanks to the dramatic sacrifice of Antranak, Erimem’s cat. It like something out of comedic story, but it’s all played dead serious. Deadly serious, but idiotic and annoying.