With Zagreus now behind us, I’m excited to see where Big Finish takes their monthly adventures of Doctor Who. Or where they took them, anyway—this is all back from 2003! In any case, the next cab off the rank is The Wormery, by Paul Magrs and Stephen Cole, featuring the Sixth Doctor as played by Colin Baker.
The Wormery doesn’t have a regular companion character. It takes place shortly after Trial of a Time Lord so that sort of makes sense—Peri is off with King Yrcanos and Mel is still in the Doctor’s future. Instead, former Doctor Who regular Katy Manning (Third Doctor companion Jo Grant) shows up as Iris Wildthyme, a Time Lord character that Magrs created in other media, and who had shown up in Big Finish audio previously. Iris was created, from what I can gather, to be a bit of a meta-textual commentary on the Doctor and the whole series in general.
At first I found her kind of tiresome to listen to—Iris is extremely affected in her speech and Katy Manning is similarly so with her performance, so it doesn’t feel like you are listening to a real character, but more like a big cartoon. But as the story goes on the character deepens, and by the end I was enjoying things.
And there’s certainly a plot inside there to keep you going. The Wormery is about a nightclub that exists outside the normal universe, with entrances all throughout time and space. The mysterious Bianca entrances customers with her singing, but it’s all a cover for a war going on between two factions of intelligent worms that have been infecting people via the club’s special drink. And Bianca turns out to be an incarnation of Iris in the future (kind of like the Valeyard, whom the Doctor had just battled).
So yeah—there’s a lot of ideas crammed into this plot, maybe one or two too many to hold together well. But it’s also pretty long (four episodes which are each about forty minutes), so nothing needs to happen in a hurry. This looseness in the narrative keeps The Wormery from being great, but in the end it is pretty good, and for the most part kept me entertained.
The Wormery is in some ways a “found footage” story—most of it is meant to be taken from security footage in the nightclub, being listened sometime in the future by one of the former waitresses and a mysterious unspeaking older gentleman. Only the final moments of the audio do we discover that he is actually the Seventh Doctor, as played by Sylvester McCoy. The reveal is sort of meaningless as far as the story is concerned, except that it continues the mild theme of future versions of Time Lords in some way interacting with their younger selves.