The Twlight Kingdom continues the run of Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas from 2003 and 2004 (specifically March 2004) which chronicles the adventures of the Eighth Doctor and his companions in the divergent universe, with story having them journey through various zones of a mysterious planet, in search of the TARDIS. It is written by Will Shindler and stars Paul McGann as the Doctor, India Fisher as Charley and Conrad Westmass as C’Rizz.
As this story got underway, I was pretty cynical about the direction it was going on. The Doctor and his companions all find themselves captured by a group of soldiers and taken to the caves they are hiding in, preparing for the inevitable attack from their great enemy. The soldiers and the situation all seemed pretty bland and familiar, precisely like we might get in a story set on earth. I couldn’t help but think that the writers weren’t really doing all that much to make the scenario especially alien, as one would hope they would given all the time they’ve spent how far the Doctor is from anything he should be familiar with.
But then as the plot continued, it’s revealed that the circumstance is largely a fabrication, and the cause the soldiers are fighting for is all a sham. Suddenly, the lack of imagination that has gone into developing the scenario is all justified, since it’s meant to be a lie that people are believing in because a powerful dominating mental force at work. When this mental force turns out to be a giant creature that everyone is living inside of, well, that elevated the story significantly, and suddenly it was apparent that we were fresh territory.
The Twilight Kingdom‘s most notable guest star is Michael Keating, who has appeared on Doctor Who before but is best known for playing Vila in all 52 episodes of Blake’s 7. Here is Major Koth, the man who was the beginning of all the troubles that take place in the story, but it turns out is something of an unwilling prisoner. The idea is that he accidentally bonded with the cave creature, turning it into something it was never meant to be, and at the end is able to be set free and help to stop the situation from continuing. After more than three episodes of the guy being pretty obviously evil, he shows a surprisingly sympathetic side. Keating does a good ob with the character, and there is also a nice performance from Alan Rothwell as a sympathetic character named Janto.
I liked The Twilight Kingdom in the end but it took a while to get me onto its side. I liked the performances of Paul McGann and India Fisher as usual–the Doctor and Charley really are a great TARDIS pairing, with a relationship a little reminiscent of the Tenth Doctor and Rose, but less obnoxious. C’rizz is an okay character but so far doesn’t really feel relevant to the series, making me wonder what he’s doing there.
At the end of the adventure there are a few more clues to what’s going on with the Doctor and this divergent universe, but the story is not over yet. Hopefully it will develop into something really satisfying, but we will have to wait and see to know for sure.