What’s better than getting a Short Trip? Finding out that Big Finish have started releasing the rarest Short Trips of them all, available for a mere £2.25! Five have been released so far; and today we review the first in this wave, The Toy.
In her bedroom on board the TARDIS, Nyssa dreams of her long lost home, and a Forbidden Archway that never really existed — or did it?
In the TARDIS corridors she finds a flight of steps, a door marked ‘keep out’, and beyond, a locked room full of secrets. In particular a casket containing a jewel seems to call to her. “Nyssa of Traken, do you want to be my friend?”
So begins a journey that takes Nyssa from snow capped mountains to vast cities, and introduces her to people she seems to know so well. What dangerous landscape has she wondered into — and can she ever escape to safety, and the comfort of her travelling companions?
First of all, can I just say that the covers for this new line of Short Trips Rarities are absolutely gorgeous? Tom Saunders has done a truly amazing job; and I can’t commend him enough. I’m not going to start every review of these Short Trips Rarities by praising him; but I thought he deserved some recognition from the off.
The story begins in an extremely complicated and enthralling way; and I have to say it reminds me heavily of Amy’s Choice, which I personally feel is a totally underrated gem in Series 5. Nyssa, the main focus of this story, seems to be waking up in Traken, and then in the TARDIS; making you question which one is the dream, and which one is reality?
Nigel Fairs, the writer of The Toy, doesn’t waste time at all; as soon as Nyssa has woken up, we get to know more about her innermost thoughts and desires; something that I feel is really needed for Classic Who companions. Having Sarah Sutton herself reading this, and thus delving into the mind of Nyssa really makes everything seem more real; as you’re hearing it from the horses mouth, so to speak. (I don’t think that either Nyssa or Sarah Sutton is a horse, it’s just a figure of speech.)
It’s extremely clear that Nigel Fairs gets Doctor Who. Very well. It’s also apparent that he’s able to see issues in the Classic era and address them with humour and insight (there’s a very good explanation as to why the companions wear the same outfit constantly). He’s looking back at the Fifth Doctor’s era with rose tinted glasses, but also placing a whoopee cushion on a random chair in the TARDIS. (What an odd metaphor.)
Once strange things begin to happen to Nyssa, the story seems to change from following themes used in Amy’s Choice to ones in The Girl Who Waited and Journey To The Centre of The TARDIS. As I’m listening to The Toy, I can’t help but feel like this story would have worked equally as well with Amy Pond as the companion, or even Clara Oswald. It seems to be a story that could be universally used; but I have to admit I’m glad that we’re getting more of an insight into Nyssa’s personal life and thoughts.
We get to learn more about Nyssa’s past, and more about her lineage; which reminded me somewhat of Absent Friends from Doom Coalition 3. Her grandfather especially, seems to be of interest. It seems as if Nyssa’s grandfather has had a very interesting life. Nyssa also gets to interact with someone whom I never anticipated. Don’t you love the intricacies of time travel?
Nyssa has to battle with her own imagination in order to get herself out of the mess that she’s in; and it’s going to be one hell of a battle. Some questions arise from this, such as how does she know them? And how do you stop your own imagination? The major threat of The Toy is much more intense than I anticipated, but it’s a shame that the payoff seemed to me to be far too rushed. Considering some of these Short Trips are upwards of 45 minutes; it’s a shame that The Toy is only 32, as the extra ten could have given the listener a much more satisfactory payoff.
The conclusion of The Toy is a very personal, heartfelt and warm one, which helps tie up any loose ends that any listener may have had. Nigel Fairs has done a cracking job of tying this story to some events of the Doctor’s past; events that often go unmentioned or overlooked. We get a great little insight into the relationship between the Doctor and another Gallifreyan whom he holds dear, and the idea that Tegan and Adric are jealous of Nyssa’s close bond with the Doctor is absolutely believable and brilliant.
Should you want to purchase The Toy, it’s currently available from Big Finish online for £2.25 here!