So it’s early 1983, Tegan has just rejoined the TARDIS in Arc of Infinity and the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan are off to face the wrath of the Mara and Martin Clunes. Whoah there – not if Big Finish have anything to do with it they’re not.
This month sees a new trilogy of adventures of the post Adric pre-Turlough TARDIS crew of Season 20 and it begins just where Arc of Infinity left off.
The big difference between “Classic” and “New” Who for me is character progression – in Arc of Infinity the Doctor and Nyssa meet Tegan again and things carry on as if nothing had happened – The Waters of Amsterdam addresses this, and in episode one we find out what Tegan has been doing in the intervening year between Time Flight and Arc of Infinity – she has gone back to being an air hostess, been fired from being an air hostess and had a 3 month relationship with a man called Kyle who she dumped because he was too perfect. Wouldn’t it be odd if he turned up in Amsterdam as well? Well it would and he does – it turns out that Kyle is a bit of a fan of Rembrandt and wants to go to see a new exhibition of his work – but this is no exhibition that the Doctor has heard of, this exhibition shouldn’t exist – this is an exhibition of Rembrandt’s “Vessels of the Stars” – not only paintings of Spaceships, but designs that would actually work. Naturally the Doctor decides to have a word with Rembrandt…
This story wears many coats and has many tones – part one is a character piece filling in missing detail about Tegan, parts two and three are the much celebrated genre of “Celebrity Historical” in which are heroes and Tegan’s ex boyfriend Kyle meet Rembrandt and part four is a very “New Who” feeling episode with a divergent timeline, a vengeance set in place centuries earlier and a tearful goodbye.
So a very uneven story, well yes, but it flows a lot better than it sounds, in fact you will be so caught up in the dealings of the Goblin like Nix – creatures formed from Water and their conflict with the Countess Mach-Teldak that you will not notice – in fact the changes of pace and tone play very much to the stories advantage in a way as you really do not know what tangent it is going to go off on next – it has a freewheeling feel that really does not pause for breath as events in 17th century Amsterdam are trying to directly forge a new future for the world…
What about Rembrandt and the crew meeting him? Actor Richard James is given the part of the great master, and initially plays him like a grumpy harassed dutch man – but the delight to his performance is how this bluster and misanthropy is a shield to disguise his grief at the loss of his wife Saskia – there is a truly beautiful scene in episode three where he discusses the nature of grief and loss with Nyssa.
So a celebrity historical very much in the style of The Shakespeare Code, but still feeling more like the Visitation – very much of its era but with modern attitudes towards character and emotion. Definitely not a wash-out.
Written by Ed Watkinson
Reunited with the Doctor and Nyssa, Tegan joins them on a trip to Amsterdam’s Rijkmuseum to see a new exhibition of the work of Rembrandt van Rijn, featuring his drawings of “Vessels of the Stars”. The Doctor is astonished to discover that they are designs for spaceships that would actually work, and decides to pop back to the Dutch Golden Age for a quiet word with Rembrandt – but the world-weary artist is no mood to help.
Meanwhile, strange forces are swirling in the canals, creatures from ancient myth, the watery, goblin-like Nix. What is their connection to the mysterious Countess Mach-Teldak – and to the events of Tegan’s life during her year away from the Doctor?
Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Tim Delap (Kyle), Richard James (Rembrandt Van Rijn), Elizabeth Morton (Teldak), Robbie Stevens (Polsbroek/Nix), Wayne Forester (Glauber). Other parts played by the cast.
Written By: Jonathan Morris
Directed By: Jamie Anderson
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Alan Barnes
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs