Big Finish are trying something slightly different over the next three months with the Doctor Who Main Range, with having two hour long stories in each release, seemingly related by similar titles. This month, we’re joining the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa with the stories Alien Heart and Dalek Soul; today, I’ll be reviewing the first of the two tales, Alien Heart, written by Stephen Cole.
In the TARDIS, the Doctor and Nyssa stumble across a trail of ten destroyed worlds, all of them obliterated by means of some utterly monstrous but utterly unknown device. The planet Traxana would seem to be next in line to suffer the same fate. But when the TARDIS lands on an outpost on Traxana’s moon, Nyssa is carried away by a tide of giant green arachnoids, leaving the Doctor behind…
And the coming menace is closer than he thinks.
I think that this may be the first time that I’ve reviewed a Big Finish story featuring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa exclusively; and I have to say that Nyssa isn’t my favourite Fifth Doctor companion, but I’m more than willing to give this TARDIS duo a go. From the outset, it seems that the Doctor and Nyssa are on the trail of something odd; a whole planet has gone missing. It’s very reminiscent of The Stolen Earth.
It’s not long before the Doctor meets an alien civilisation that seem to be about to interfere with a planet that’s nowhere near ready for alien contact. I have to say that the Doctor’s reaction when he thinks he’s figured out what’s going on is so refreshing for Peter’s Doctor; we don’t see the mild and meek Doctor that we’re used to from his televised adventures, we see a Fifth Doctor full of anger, rage and a touch of desperation. I have to say I love it.
Personally, I think that the set up for Alien Heart is very textbook Doctor Who, especially on Big Finish; we have the Doctor and his companion going on an adventure, they end up going on a different adventure, and soon enough, they end up being separated. This means that the Doctor can normally follow the ‘A plot’, whilst the companion can go on a ‘B plot’, and they’ll inevitably be reunited near the end.
The first episode of Alien Heart seems very much focussed in putting all the players in their place, as well as introducing the green cell spider creatures from the cover.
The conclusion of the first episode is yet again very textbook; it works well and makes you want to listen to the second episode, but I can’t imagine many people saying it’s the best cliffhanger in Big Finish history.
During the opening scene of the second episode, we yet again get to see a really rash Fifth Doctor; it really shows just how much the Doctor cares about Nyssa.
I have to admit that I’m rather surprised just how much time is pivotal to this story, for both the Doctor and Nyssa’s stories. It certainly alienates you slightly from what’s going on, which is probably the intention, considering humanity is the alien in this story.
For me, the biggest surprise didn’t come at the cliffhanger of the first episode, nor the ending of the second; but around halfway through Episode Two. I’m not going to tell you what it is, but if you listen to Alien Heart, you’ll know exactly what moment I’m talking about.
Trying not to spoil the revelation in the second act of Alien Heart makes discussing the rest of the episode incredibly difficult; so I’ll just be as vague as humanly possible. When the Doctor finally finds Nyssa, we get to learn more about the new threat of the story, as well as the Cell Spiders.
The conclusion of Alien Heart is incredibly unexpected; and it’s terrifyingly brilliant. Stephen Cole really knows how to throw a curveball in there right at the very last second; and now I can’t wait to hear Dalek Soul.
Overall, Alien Heart is a story that starts off somewhat slow, but in the second episode really comes alive. This type of story fits the two episode format perfectly, as if this was stretched out to two hours, I feel like it would have dragged numerous times. It’s going to be interesting to see if Alien Heart links directly into Dalek Soul, but only time will tell…
Should you want to purchase Alien Heart/ Dalek Soul, it’s currently available from Big Finish for £14.99 on CD or a £12.99 download which you can purchase here.