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Tuesday, 17 March 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Ruddock
Equilibrium (Credit: Big Finish)
Written by Matt Fitton
Directed by Ken Bentley
StarringPeter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton, and Mark Strickson, with Annette Badland and Nickolas Grace

Picking up where Mistfall left off, Big Finish's new E-Space Trilogy throws the TARDIS crew into a snow globe, as they crash into the icy world of Isenfell - a land of howling storms, black ice, hunters, and snow beasts.

Accepting an invitation of dinner from the imperious Queen Karlina, it soon becomes apparent that all is not well, and Isenfell has a particularly draconian door policy - quite literally one in, one out. Not that this should be too much of a surprise for the Fifth Doctor and friends, invitations to dinner never end particularly well for them, and, as we know, nothing is straightforward in E-Space.

Matt Fitton's script features some fine world-building, and Isenfell is a good combination of quasi-medieval society and Davison-era hard SF. Underneath the fairytale chintz and courtesy of their hosts Karlina (Annette Badland) and Balancer Skarsgard (Nickolas Grace), this world is sick and crumbling - only kept in check by a strict control on the population. Badland and Grace give strong, layered performances, with Badland almost unrecognisable as the former Margaret Slitheen.

As Tegan and Nyssa discover, parents are hiding their young in caves below the surface to avoid the 'balancing'. It gives Nyssa a chance to reflect on how much she misses her own children, in between helping the Doctor unravel Isenfell's mysteries and try and save its people from armageddon. Indeed this is slightly more Nyssa's story than anyone else's.

It's not all bad news though, Turlough gets a bit of female attention for a change, and gets to spend four episodes being scared half to death by the attentions of the barking mad Princess Inger. That said, he doesn't get a lot else to do. The TARDIS crew are split up for much of the story, and Davison and Sarah Sutton get the best scenes together, as Nyssa quietly empathises with the Doctor's desperate struggle to save Isenfell, while everything goes to hell around them. There are no real villains here. Both Karlina and Skarsgard do questionable things, but get their redemption, and Isenfell is saved, but we close as we open - on a cliffhanger, with Tegan in the hold of a mysterious spacecraft, kidnapped for reasons unknown.

Excellently directed by Ken Bentley, with some strong, evocative sound design, Equilibrium is another strong offering from Big Finish. Next stop: The Entropy Plague, and the conclusion of this trilogy.