2 out of 2 found this review helpful.
Over the years, Big Finish have done many sequels to previous stories in the TV series. The Bride Of Peladon, The Butcher Of Brisbane, The Osiedon Adventure; so many stories from the show's long history have been plumed for inspiration. And, while it may seem like it's near the bottom of the barrel, The Hand Of Fear is a story that had plenty of material to be mined for a future story. So Eldrad Must Die would seem, at first glance, to be a story with massive potential. However, unlike most Marc Platt scripts, Eldrad Must Die feels oddly cold and clinical, and filled to the brim with cliches. It's simply an excersize in nostalgia, rather than any attempt to advance the ideas originally present in Hand Of Fear.
The plot is as dull as ditchwater, with a simple, cliched story that says nothing and does little else. The story plods uninspiringly along, never threatening to become anything interesting. Very rarely has one of Big Finish's sequels been this slow and plodding, and it reinforces the idea that Big Finish have simply run out of sequels that are worth telling. Unlike Marc Platt's usual stories brimming with intelligence and wit, Eldrad Must Die feels cold and clinical. Everything feels far too calculated, and that gives it the feeling that it's a story that Big Finish wanted to tell, rather than one that needed to be told. It lacks the spark that Doctor Who stories, particularly those that pick up upon elements of the previous TV cannon, usually have. Very little new material is added to the Kastrian mythos, aside from the character of Mulkris, despite the fact that it has the potential. The plot also just seems to come to a sudden hault, with the crystal growth just wilting away. Yes, I'm sure there is some science in there, but dramatically, it just doesn't seem to work at all. That, combined with the bloated and overlong episodes, means that any drama in this story is mined away over the course of the two hour runtime. I'm sorry, but like the collapsed quartzberg in the bay, this story very quickly falls apart. The plot quickly looses focus, with so many different elements that it just seems messy and complicated. In many ways, it does remind me of Arc Of Infinity in that it has so many differing elements that prehaps don't come quite together. So, prehaps, it's more reminiscent of season 20 than it would like to be. But to be honest, from the outset, it immediately feels like it's just riffing off the original: shouty Eldrad, a nuclear reactor going critical, a possessed companion. All the elements that constitute this story are similar to ones we have seen before, and it just doesn't interest anyone who is even remotely interested in anything new.
The characters are also a drab bunch, clearly inspired by some of the mid 80's worst efforts in characterisation. Mulkris should have been an interesting character, but instead she just comes across as a petulant child. Nancy Carroll at least manages to make her sound a little like Judith Paris did in The Hand Of Fear, but it's too little, too late to invest any sympathy in the character. As for Stephen Thorne, despite his excellent performance, he has so little to do, it's untrue. The major selling point of this is the return of Eldrad, and to get Stephen Thorne in, and then do so little with him is a great shame. Instead, for the most part, we're left with Charlie Gibbs, one of the most dullest Doctor Who characters ever. He's just your traditional bad boy, no questions asked. Not one part of him is even remotely interesting, and added to that, Pip Torrens' performance is so out of kilter with the rest of the material, it's untrue. His performance is off in so many places, and when he has to carry two out of the three episode cliffhangers, it's really noticeable. Nothing about his character seems to give the audience anything to like, and his performance turns us off even more. The rest of the guest cast stumble through the story, trying their best to remain dignified, but not one of them manages to standout in any way. As for the regulars, well only Sarah Sutton comes across as completely invested in the material. Mark Strickson and Janet Fielding feel rather forced, which, considering some of the poor dialogue, is no wonder. Peter Davison just sounds like he has no clue what is going on, which is no wonder. Peter defiantly sounds more comfortable in the stories which have little to no continuity. Here he just sounds plain lost, with a story that relies heavily on a story nestled in the Tom Baker era. Sarah is the only one who attacks the material with a complete sense of understanding. However, it's more the pity, because out of the four regulars she has the least to do. Ken Bentley's usually solid direction is way off here, his usual standard seemingly deserting him. Wilfredo Acosta's music and sound design does try to gain back some dignity, and, for the most part, becomes the most enjoyable part of the story. I particularly liked his 'dubstep Doctor Who' melody. But even this great work doesn't quite feel like the exemplary standard I've come to expect from Wilfredo Acosta.
Eldrad Must Die is a story with problems. These problems are huge, and lie unfortunately in a variety of places. Writing, performances and direction let this story down significantly, and it's these lacking elements that cause the problems to befall this story. In all honesty, the end product feels rushed, and very far from the standards we have come to expect from Big Finish. A bitter disappointment, considering it could have been so much better.