Released March 2002
After several episodes, the Doctor’s apprehension of Charley’s continued existence following his actions in ‘Storm Warning’ finally returns to the forefront. Taking Charley to 1930 Singapore for New Year’s Eve celebrations, the Doctor meets a man named Sebastian Grayle, a man claiming to have killed the Doctor in the past and helped his masters gain control of Earth in return for immortality. Meshing the classic stylings of Doctor Who with more modern techniques, the Doctor and Charley set off on a frantic quest to discover the truth behind these claims.
Like ‘The Keys of Marinus’ and ‘The Chase,’ the events unfold through a series of linked adventures and narratives. Here, the plot quickly moves through a Roman fort, Edward the Confessor’s court, Buckinghamshire, and through time itself. This style of story intrinsically means that there is a higher sense of urgency and pacing, but it also inevitably means that none of the supporting characters in any one locale are as well-developed as in a story with one central setting.
As the Doctor himself admits, Grayle proves to be a worthy adversary and is excellently portrayed by Stephen Perring. The Doctor and Charley come across Grayle at various points in his life, at each stage becoming more rounded and developed, and by the end of the series of meetings it’s understandable how he could develop such bitter hatred and animosity for the Doctor. The reveal of his masters’ identity is a genuinely surprising nod to the past, although plenty of clues are put into the script before that moment for longtime fans. Credit must be given both to the writers Paul Cornell and Caroline Symcox as well as the voice artist Robert Curbishley for bringing a relatively unknown villainous race back and making them a credible threat once more. And although the rest of the roles are more minor, Lennox Greaves as Edward and Justine Mitchell as Lucy Martin still manage to distinguish themselves.
Of course, though, it’s the leads who again anchor the story, and both are fully up to the task once more in ‘Seasons of Fear.’ Paul McGann plays his Doctor as a lover of adventure, perhaps more than any other incarnation, and he seems to relish the opportunity to hunt for a foe throughout time and to get to the bottom of the mystery. His interactions with Grayle prove to be some of the best scenes in any of his stories so far, again a testament to this script as well as the actors involved. There are some lines of the Doctor’s that come off as a little self-important, but for the most part this is the Eighth Doctor at the top of his game. At the same time, India Fisher as Charley again proves her acting prowess, in particular adding a great deal of raw emotion as she portrays her own doubts regarding the consequences of her surviving the R101 crash.
It’s tough to make a story that spans so many settings work well, especially in the audio medium, but ‘Seasons of Fear’ manages to ably do so as the sound design and score distinguish each setting and give them each a character of their own. Almost no story would be able to match the masterful ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ that preceded it, but ‘Seasons of Fear’ is another very strong entry into this run of adventures for the Eighth Doctor and foreshadows some very interesting coming events.