, , , , , , ,


“Of all the places in all the world, he just happens to walk up in Amsterdam?”
“It’s a small world…”
“No, it’s not. It’s an enormous one. Some people, even being on the other side of it isn’t far enough.”

Tegan’s been canned from her job, and returns to the Nyssa/Davison iteration of the “Full Tardis” just in time for a pleasant visit to Amsterdam.

Unfortunately, she runs into an old flame, who’s become something of an art

“If you must know, I’ve come here to see The Master.”

While The Doctor winds up as impromptu museum tour guide, Tegan and Nyssa catch up, and we discover exactly why she lost her job…and how she met her rather unusual ex-beau in the process.

But it’s rainy season in the Lowlands, and the canals of Amsterdam have produced some horrific life forms…ones only The Doctor and company even realize are there.  And just how is Rembrandt van Rijn tied up in all of this?

“I recognize most of his work, but I never knew he liked to draw spaceships.”

Despite all of the ostensible chaos with androids and water-borne alien creatures pursuing other stranded offworlders who just happen to be utilizing the Dutch masters to map out blueprints for a starship, this is a rather quiet, sedate tale that moves with all the stodginess and quiet of the Kinski/Herzog Nosferatu, or even an Ingmar Bergman piece.

The sound design plays into this vibe with a surprising use of silence and subtlety, at times offering some of the quietest, throbbing minimalist-avant garde accompaniment to scenes where music even appears that Big Finish listeners have encountered in some time.

The expected bombast does appear, but until the final episode (which gets so over the top musically it practically undoes all that came before), even that tends to be subverted into semi-isolated single notes from the bass end of the piano, a glissando across the piano strings or perhaps a cymbal crash rather than the usual martial nonsense.  It’s an interesting, semi-modernist approach in strong variance to the typical obviousness and chest-thumping bluster, and one I could do with more of going forward.

It’s a bit odd to see Tegan, of all people, having this sort of gushy and emotional background (or more precisely, between televised episode business) applied to her, but the same could be said of Rembrandt himself, and the fact is, taken all in all, the piece works.

“Being polite to complete idiots…not really my strong point.”

Janet Fielding’s Tegan really seems to have developed as a character since her return to the role with Big Finish, offering a far warmer and more nuanced vision of a character which I recall from the teleseries as being little more than an inveterate whiner, alternating between bristly snark towards all comers (however undeserving) and a misguided attempt to commandeer the Tardis or two.

Admittedly, it’s been a few years since I’ve last paid respects to the Davison era, but there’s no question that authors like Jonathan Morris and of course the lady herself have managed to imbue the character with what amounts to astronomical units more of a three dimensional persona.

So once again, thanks to the efforts of all concerned at Big Finish, a character I’d viewed for decades as incidental at best (and annoying at worst) gets a shiny new veneer – and better, one which both remains true to the character and fills out some much needed depth and humanity hidden beneath.  Kudos.

For their parts, Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton continue their effective double act, one well honed from among the very first handful of Big Finish Doctor Who releases, closing in on two decades ago (and still one of our all time favorites, 2000’s Land of the Dead).

One or two of the extras come off a bit more strident if not a tad hammy than usual, but leads Elizabeth Morton and Tim Delap acquit themselves admirably enough, and the overall feel is that of a more thoughtful, somewhat introspective chilly mittel-European chamber piece than the sort of New Who-inspired surface noise and bluster that’s become increasingly common of late.

I liked it.