Doctor Who Audio Book Review: #10 – Winter for the Adept

Written By: Andrew Cartmel
Featuring: Fifth Doctor and Nyssa
Release Date: July 2000

Publisher’s Summary:
When a teleportation incident goes badly wrong, Nyssa finds herself stranded on the freezing slopes of the Swiss Alps in 1963. But is it mere coincidence that she finds shelter in a snowbound school haunted by a malevolent poltergeist?

When the Doctor arrives, Nyssa and the other inhabitants of the school soon discover that the ghost is merely part of a darker, deeper and more deadly game involving rogue psi talents and something else… something not of this Earth.

The tenth Big Finish Audio Adventure of this series, starring Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton, has a lot of potential to be a memorable episode, but this potential is ultimately sidelined in favour of a half baked yet overly complicated alien plot.

It is a shame that this story didn’t totally translate completely upon listening because it contained several elements that had great potential. The opening moments, where an elderly Alison looks at her diary and recalls the day the Doctor arrives at the boarding school she was at, feels reminiscent of the First Doctor TV adventure Marco Polo, except this stylistic choice was bizarrely only utilised in the opening and closing seconds. The isolated school in the snow could have created some very spooky moments by itself but, apart from the occasional wardrobe and window moving in Part 1, lacks atmosphere. Finally, there was a character with so much potential in the form of Miss Tremayne, the Scottish God-fearing headmistress, but she is bumped off in favour of a rather dull alien invasion narrative crammed into the final part. There were some choices made during the story that I do question as it could have been the first Peter Davison Big Finish adventure that I found memorable if these elements were more prominent.

The narrative also makes itself unnecessarily complicated for no reason at all. Nyssa is accidentally teleported to the Swiss Alps during one of the Doctor’s experiments and I actually liked the first part because it contained very little of the Doctor – it allowed Nyssa to be able to have more characterisation I found. When the Doctor arrived though, there was essentially three parts with not much happening, since the listeners and Nyssa are both waiting for the Doctor to reveal what they were trying to find with the experiments in the first place. When the plot kicked on towards the end of Part Three, it went from a slightly atmospheric ghost story to a generic alien invasion. There is then a needlessly complicated explanation as to why the poltergeist activity is taken place, the ghost turns out to be underwhelming and the alien threat, when revealed, appear and are dispatched of very quickly. A more straightforward narrative, possibly with a greater frequency of the stylistic choices I suggested above, could have made this episode more successful than what it was.

The voice acting, for the most part, is merely adequate. I did enjoy Part 1 for the reason that it allowed Sarah Sutton a chance to expand Nyssa beyond the subtle portrayal that viewers saw when the characters saw in the TV series. It was also good to see her angry with the Doctor for the majority of the adventure for having her almost as his pawn by teleporting her to the Swiss Alps. As for the Fifth Doctor himself, I feel like a broken record in every one of these reviews, because I still don’t think that the writers are giving Peter Davison the correct material to allow the character to bloom. The only thing I can remember from his character in this episode is that he was always keeping things from the other characters. Other than that, there are okay portrayals of the two school girls, Miss Tremayne I have mentioned above as the best character, and a rather stereotypical representation of a French teacher. The villains of this episode also sound like every other, save for a squelching noise that I don’t want to imagine.

Winter for the Adept had the raw materials to be the best Fifth Doctor Big Finish audio adventure to date. However, some mystifying choices turned this from a creepy ghost story to a dull alien invasion one. It is not bad by any means but it disappointed me upon reflection.

Star Rating: 2.5/5

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