On the way to a planned reunion between Nyssa and her daughter, the Tardis suddenly shifts course into e-Space. As it happens, before his untimely sacrifice in Earthshock, Adric programmed calculations and coordinates to plot a one way course home.
But Alzarius has been declared off limits by The Deciders. So why is a Decider Starliner on hand? And why are they abducting Marshmen, just in time for their violent awakening at Mistfall?
Trapped on the swamp planet of Alzarius, can the Doctor and his companions return to standard space?
“We made it our world. We trampled over the natural beauty of that planet and came to dominate it – not through force, but through an absolute and arrogant assumption of our superiority through technology.”
Despite this being centered around the second iteration of the “Full Tardis”, Turlough spends the first episode and a half out of commission, leaving Mistfall as something more of a Davison/Nyssa/Tegan showcase. Fine, but a bit disappointing considering just how rare a Mark Strickson appearance actually is, and how entertaining the Davison/Turlough episodes tend to be…
Andrew Smith, former P.C. who penned Tom Baker-era Adric debut Full Circle, continues what’s slowly becoming something of a body of audio drama screenplays with Big Finish (inclusive of both Colin Baker/Flip affair The Brood of Erys and the quite worthy William Russell/Carole Ann Ford Early Adventure Domain of the Voord) with this return to his authorial roots.
While Matthew Waterhouse is nowhere to be found (necessarily, given the involvement, however brief and tangenital, of his successor in Mark Strickson’s Turlough), Smith brings the action straight back into e-Space, Alzarius and the marshmen, with even descendants of the Deciders making a plot-centric appearance herein.
There’s some subtext about environmental despoilation as both form and consequence of colonialism, the “wisdom of the primitive”, hippie types who intermarry with and desire to take on the ways of the Alzarian native, activist types trying to straighten out the mess and even sinister forces from the ranks of the oppressor who aim to acheive their own ends while placing the blame on the peaceful insurgents. It’s all very recognizable from history, and even sadly timely as social commentary and in implication.
Janet Fielding’s Tegan appears to get the better part of the airtime, with Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa close behind – Peter Davison seems to be taking more of a backseat this go around, with Mark Strickson barely sticking his head in the door, as if to say, “hey! I’m here too!” leaving Mistfall feeling oddly unbalanced.
The incidental characters specific to this episode do their best, but never really seem to catch the listener or grow on one with their particular plight or position here.
About the closest to a sympathetic (rather than head scratchingly behaviored if not insane) character would be Emily Woodward’s “evolved” marsh-femme Fem, whose status as neither fish nor fowl (pun most decidedly intentional) actually leaves her as the true heroine of the tale: it is she who enables communication with the captured (and injured) marshman, and she who provides hope for the future, serving both natives and colonists as mediator and “translator”.
While certainly atmospheric enough in the swamp sequences, Mistfall ultimately feels like treading water if not running in place: a sort of repetition of Smith’s earlier teleseries script, albeit from a slightly different angle. While a passable enough way to spend the time, little about it really jumps out at the listener, leaving the whole affair somewhat middling in the end.