Doctor Who: The Roof of the World [Big Finish]

With The Roof of the World the Big Finish Main Range of Doctor Who audios returns to the world of the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) along with companions Peri (Nicola Bryant) and Erimem (Caroline Morris). The story was written by Adrian Rigelsford, and was release number #59 in the Main Range, coming out in July 2004, less then a year before Doctor Who was revived on TV.

Spoilers (for real)

The Roof of the World brings the Doctor and his companions to Tibet in 1917, giving the Doctor and opportunity to indulge in his love of cricketing. I love it how the Doctor throughout his incarnations is regularly demonstrating these various skills and hobbies that he is passionate about, but we never see how the Doctor got into it in the first place. So the implication is that some Doctor before the Fifth was also really into cricket, but just not enough to model his dress sense around it. My money is on the Third–something he probably picked up after spending all that time on earth.

In any case, the Fifth Doctor gets involved in what is supposed to be a big cricket game amongst all the British colonial explorers who are around, but ends up involving only one–a antiquated by-product of the era named General Bruce who travels with how own traveling publicist, the cynical and jaded John Matthew. Cricketing concerns soon fall to the wayside as the group wind up in the midst of an crisis with potential global stakes involving a Great Old One (a term borrowed from the works of H.P. Lovecraft which sometimes gets used as a catch-all name for the Doctor’s most ancient and powerful threats).

In this particular situation it transpires that Erimem’s father had tried to use one or more of the Great Olds in the past, but realizing the danger had it somehow imprisoned in a pyramid. But by the time of this story, the danger had returned, and was threatening Erimem in particular. The first episode (of four) ends with Erimem under the Old One’s influence, and apparently being obliterated in a devastating sandstorm-like manifestation of the monster. Then in the second part the story shifts to entirely Erimem’s point of view, and becomes a nightmarish journey through her life, with her being forced to experience all manner of betrayal from people she cares about, including Peri and the Doctor–Peri’s verbal assault on Erimem is brutal. Then in the third part, we shift back to the external perspective and pick up the story where part one ended. It’s an interesting structure that is only let down toward the end, when the action becomes a bit muddied–I wasn’t always sure what was going on there as the Doctor was effecting his victory.

The drama isn’t fantastic, but I enjoyed the setting and the guest performances. Both General Bruce and John Matthew end up having much more nuanced characterizations than one expects as the story begins, and are well-played by Sylvester Morand and Alan Cox. Lord Davey, another explorer possessed by a Great Old One, is played by Edward de Souza, who starred in the original “Doctor-Lite” episode of the classic era, the one-part Mission to the Unknown from 1965.

The story certainly makes a game attempt to really explore Erimem as a person, with moderate success, and Caroline Morris does a fine job. Peter Davison is good as normal, and Nicola Bryant is a big improvement over her role in Axis of Insanity, but there are still elements her irritability and complaining playing a bigger role than seems like it fits for a Fifth Doctor story.

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