I saw Muppets Most Wanted over Christmas, it wasn’t as good as the 2011 reboot, but in the opening song the Muppets refer to the fact that sequels are never as good as the original. It’s a rare occasion when they are – Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones, Terminator 2, Aliens, The Dark Knight, Superman 2 spring to mind, but usually we are in Ghostbusters 2 or Jaws 4 territory. Sequels should always be better than the originals, but very rarely are – what was fresh and innovative in the original is seen as tired and lazy in the sequel. We want a sequel to be at once familiar, but retain the innovation that made the original so memorable. But what if the original isn’t particularly memorable to begin with?
This thought brings me on to this months main range release from Big Finish – Mistral, a sequel to the Season 18 story Full Circle. Season 18, oh season 18! What can I say? It was everything Season 17 wasn’t – joyless, dry, ponderous, morose, and dull. Memorable, yes, but mainly because it was Tom Baker’s last season.
During season 18, Full Circle was commissioned by Script Editor Christopher H Bidmead, it was by new writer Andrew Smith, and is probably, with hindsight, the most memorable story of Season 18. It involved The Doctor and Romana arriving in E Space – a small universe outside ours, and trying to get back. They land on the planet Alzarius and meet Adric, they are also get involved in Mistral and the evolution of the Alizarin people from spiders to Marshmen to human like Alzarians.
Mistfall is a direct sequel and the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough are sent back into E Space, and again land on Alzarius during Mistfall. Its approximately 300 years after the events of Full Circle and the New Alzarian’s led by Decider Lana Merrion (played by Jemma Redgrave) are back on Alzarius collecting specimens of dormant Marshmen to study them and map their evolution, but there is a saboteur who wants the expedition wiped out at all costs.
It’s a very 1980’s story, the recreation of season 20 is spot on, from the pacing of the story to the eerily accurate incidental music. If you close your eyes you could see the guest cast in beige jumpsuits with big 80’s hair and over made up eyes, its that evocative. It’s also evocative of the era in that it’s a very dry story, not dusty dry, but quite stiff and worthy, a lot more Bidmead than Adams, but then again reminiscent of the era. Also true to the era the TARDIS team are split up and for the majority of the story with The Doctor & Tegan taking part in one series of events, and Nyssa with Turlough in the others. The stories dovetail at there denouement as they did on TV and things are wrapped up quite neatly with a nice cliffhanger for the next in the trilogy. The main cast slip back into their roles effortlessly, it’s almost second nature to them. Jemma Redgrave is fab as Decider Merrion, she seems to be only just keeping things under control, one step away from a breakdown – leadership seems an effort to her, the villain of the piece is (no spoilers) a bit panto, but no more than the way the Master was portrayed in this era.
So is it better or worse than Full Circle? Well, neither really; its like a direct continuation and seems like part of the same story, it is written by Andrew Smith, so if anyone knows Alzarius it’s him.
It’s a bit too Sci Fi for me; very worthy and a bit preachy, but if you are a fan of the Davison era, its a perfect pastiche of season 20.
When the Mist Clears on Mistral, I give it 7/10.
Written by Ed Watkinson
Drawn off-course, the TARDIS passes through a CVE into a closed universe – a hugely improbable event with a tragically obvious cause. In order to escape inescapable E-Space, the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Turlough are forced to venture in the wilds of planet Alzarius.
But they’re not the only unwanted visitors to this strange world. A Starliner has landed, captained by Decider Merrion – but why would Merrion risk rousing the Planet that Slept, and the monsters in its marshes?
Mistfall is coming. The Marshmen are coming. But while Nyssa and Turlough find themselves caught in the open, in the hands of fanatics who model themselves on the legendary Outlers, the Doctor and Tegan discover that the supposedly secure Starliner affords them no protection from monsters both within and without…
Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Jemma Redgrave (Decider Lana Merrion), Nigel Carrington (Pik Solus), Emily Woodward (Fem/Citizen Arana), Paul Panting (Drell/Marshleader), Matthew Carter (Yan Fara)
Written By: Andrew Smith
Directed By: Ken Bentley