Doctor Who: The Axis of Insanity [Big Finish]

After a whole series of Big Finish stories about the Eighth Doctor, things get switched up at last and Doctor Who‘s main range of audios from 2004 brings us this story featuring Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, Nicola Bryant as Peri and Caroline Morris as audio-original companion Erimem.

Spoilers

This Fifth Doctor adventure was written by Simon Furman and features the TARDIS traveling to the titular “Axis”, an interdimensional hub for aberrant timelines that have apparently come into being due to the activities of the Doctor and other Time Lords. The environment of the Axis is in constant lux and it is normally guarded by an Overseer from another dimension who is tasked to make sure things run smoothly. However, on this occasion the Doctor is alarmed to discover that it has been taken over by an insane jester full of cosmic power.

The concept behind the story is more interesting than the actual plot, where it is eventually revealed that the jester is really a rogue scientist from one of the stray timelines who has the ability to appear in different forms. There is a lot of toing and froing around with strange carnivals and fire-breathing dragons–lots of action but most of it is not particularly engaging. And the end of the story is strangely flippant: the problem is solved but there is still an aberrant timeline out there that the Doctor has to make sure gets “pruned” (ie, eliminated). There is a bit of brief lip-service about the implications for all the people who actually live in that timeline, but generally it’s treated as a bit of a grand new adventure for the Doctor and his companions to go on…a weird idea considering it has involves basically ending countless lives.

Peter Davison brings his usual strong performance as the Doctor on this occasion, but I wasn’t particularly impressed by either Nicola Bryant or Caroline Morris. This surprised me since both have been good in other stories. Peri here is frequently impatient and grouchy, which perhaps is meant to anticipate her reactions to the more brash Sixth Doctor on TV, but is just awkward in this audio. More impressive is the Jester himself, who is over-the-top but genuinely creepy–a laughing maniac akin to the Joker. He is played by Garrick Hagon, who was best known as the largely deleted character Biggs from the first Star Wars film

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