The Fourth Doctor is back, and this time, it’s slightly different. Instead of having a monthly range that spans eight or nine months, Big Finish have decided to release the Fourth Doctor stories in two batches a year, containing four stories each. With the release of Series 7A, it’s time to review the final story in the set, The Demon Rises by John Dorney.
A killer has been uncovered, but the mystery is far from solved. The Doctor, Leela, K9 and their friends are on the run, pursued from all sides. All the clues point to one place – but getting there alive may prove impossible.
Something horrific is happening on Chaldera… and it has been happening for longer than anyone could possibly have realised. Now every life on the planet is at stake. Bar one.
The dark secret at the heart of this world is about to be revealed.
We kick off The Demon Rises where The Mind Runners left off, and there’s some great revelations early on that just add further intrigue to proceedings. There’s now seemingly more political motivations in this world, and Chaldera, within two hours, has become one of the most fascinating Doctor Who worlds in recent memory, maybe even of all time.
Mr Shift is easily my favourite new character in this two-parter too, he’s written superbly by Dorney and played magnificently by Andy Secombe. I rather hope that Big Finish finds a way for allowing Mr Shift the chance to encounter the Whoniverse once again after this story.
Yet again, there’s a scene which features an exposition dump on how a certain character came to be the character that they currently are. (If you listen to the story, it’ll make sense.) However, again, Dorney manages to make this scene extremely entertaining, even though it’s a basic scene at it’s core. It’s the mark of a true artist, that is.
At it’s essence, the first episode of The Demon Rises is an epic game of cat and mouse, with the roles being switched and changed fairly regularly. These episodes aren’t normally my favourites, I’m personally a sucker for some action and an explosion or twelve, however I’ve become so invested in this world, these characters and the story, that I found myself thoroughly engaged throughout. Then there’s the last minute of the first episode. Oh my, what a cliffhanger.
During the opening of the second episode, we’re given some more information on the Night Mind, and it’s not what you think at all. God, I love being mislead.
Due to the revelation on the Night Mind, the entire final episode goes down a totally different path to the one I expected. Now, normally Doctor Who stories are fairly easy to work out; you can listen to the first half and have a fairly easy understanding of how the second half will go, but The Mind Runners and The Demon Rises has more twists and turns than my headphones after twenty seconds in my pocket.
John Leeson gets some absolutely brilliant dialogue, with K-9 being forced to imitate a Digital. I wish we had more of K-9 impersonating robotic foes in the future. Hearing K-9 trying to replicate the vocal mannerisms of a Cyberman or a Dalek could be hilarious; Big Finish, you can have that one for free.
The final act of The Demon Rises is some of Tom Baker’s best work for Big Finish, in my opinion. Dorney writes some extremely poetic scenes filled to the brim with amazing dialogue, and Baker manages to dance around the page, making these mini-monologues thoroughly pleasurable to listen to.
The Doctor’s actions in the final act are somewhat questionable for the Doctor, but it just goes to show how manipulative the Time Lord can be when he wants to get something done, but doesn’t want the blood on his hands directly. You can love the Doctor, you can call him a hero, but there’s always been a darkness to him, and I love it when writers aren’t afraid to bring that to the fore, even if it’s just a little bit.
The conclusion to The Demon Rises might be my favourite conclusion to any Fourth Doctor Adventure ever, and that’s no understatement. Talk about leaving you begging for more.
Overall, The Demon Rises, like The Mind Runners that preceded it, is an absolutely stellar story from start to finish. There wasn’t a moment that felt too dragged out, or a scene that felt out of place. John Dorney managed to keep me guessing and second-guessing myself right until the final moments of the tale, and, I think it’s safe to say, this two-parter might be my favourite ever Fourth Doctor story in any medium.
Should you want to purchase The Demon Rises, it’s currently available from Big Finish as a single download here for £8.99 or here if you wish to purchase all four releases in Series 7A of the Fourth Doctor Adventures for £25 on CD or £20 as a download.