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Friday, 29 August 2014 - Reviewed by Ben Breen

The Evil One
Written and Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Released Apr 2014 by Big Finish

This Fourth Doctor Adventures story begins with Leela demanding that her father takes "the test of the horda" in her place, which, judging by the scream that follows, is a rather painful ordeal. However, this scene is soon shattered by the fourth Doctor’s entrance, creating a moment of palpable unease in the mind of our favourite Time Lord, which never quite seems to leave throughout most of the story.

When the TARDIS lands in the cargo hold of a giant spacecraft, that is inexplicably empty, we are introduced to three characters in rapid succession. Calvert, a rather aggressive man; Arthley, at this point in the story, a rather official type; along with Inspector Efendi, by far the most mysterious character of the trio.

Leela continues to see what might loosely be called "visions" and hears strange noises as her and The Doctor explore a luxury space cruiser, identified as the Moray Rose, attempting to discover what grizzly and troubling fate befell the crew and the myriad of rich passengers.

When they stumble upon a man who is strangely unresponsive, the time travellers are confronted by Calvert. Things then take a turn for the worse as they are subjected to interrogation, with the Time Lord and his companion quickly progressing the plot and background rather than beating about the bush. This means that the story, despite being only two episodes long, can include an enemy encounter within the first 10 to 15 minutes. The metallic insectoid enemies, known as the Salonu, without speaking or negotiation, choose to fire on the unsuspecting Doctor, Leela and Calvert. This scene does present a running gag that is referred to remarkably often in parodies and the main series itself. This is the simple fact that the Doctor doesn’t have a plan formed as he should do with his centuries of experience. His procrastinations actually lead him to make a remark about Leela’s father, creating a moment of tension similar to the opening scene, as the aliens attempt to break down the heavily armoured door.

While this could have definitely made a good end to the first episode, it does continue on with important plot points that are used in a reasonably good substitute.

There are a cluster of new and old series references as you would expect from any Big Finish production. Passing references to the idea of the TARDIS being "bigger on the inside" further cements the remark’s place in canon and the minds of Doctor Who fans, whilst the idea of the Doctor’s fate being in the hands of a companion, now relatively commonplace to fans of the new era, makes its return. Speaking of returns, Nicholas Briggs makes yet another monster come to life with his most well-known piece of equipment, the ring modulator. Although the voice is relatively easy to get used to, I could not shake off the fact that the result sounded like a parallel earth Cyberman that had its voice unit set to a slightly more hyperactive setting than normal.

Past episodes of the series are also alluded to, the most noticeable of these call-backs being to The Face Of Evil, the first story to feature Leela as a character, as well as the infamous Janus thorn.

The "state of temporal grace" in the TARDIS is also brought to light when Calvert attempts to shoot the Doctor. Additionally, the score fits very well with the classic style of the original Doctor Who musical cues, albeit in somewhat of a more updated fashion.

The first episode cliff-hanger does provide a reason as to the story’s title, although it is unclear at that point how relevant it will become.

The return of The Master, a villain reappearing most recently in the David Tennant era, was not as much of a shock to me as it could’ve been, due to two things. The first is that the trailer acknowledges his appearance along with the cast list, with the second reason being to do with the research I conducted to complete this review, I have attempted to leave as many things untouched as possible so that new readers/listeners can enjoy everything there is to offer here.

The entire cast deliver performances that definitely do their characters justice. Louise Jameson’s Leela and Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor share a chemistry that shifts and changes throughout, whilst the Master is very much the villain that he has always been. Geoffrey Beevers, at once, portrays the age of the Time Lord villain, whilst also showing his cunning and skill with the abilities he possesses.

All in all, this story fits in well with the era it attempts to recreate, in addition to allowing the return of a villain that doesn’t get quite as much attention as foes like the Daleks or Cybermen. As to how that comes about and the schemes that the villain in question has in store, to use the words of a certain Professor River Song, "Spoilers..."