Devil in the Mist

Posted in Audio by - January 16, 2019
Devil in the Mist

Released January 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Since first releasing Doctor Who stories in 1999, Big Finish has proven time and time again that it is both willing to further develop established televised eras and to take both characters old and new alike into uncharted territory. Yet despite Peter Davison’s tenure slowly becoming more fully developed on audio since the eventual reintroduction of Janet Fielding’s Tegan and then Matthew Waterhouse’s Adric, the continued absence of Kamelion has represented the final opportunity to achieve both of those aims with the classic cast. Indeed, while Kamelion would go on to become relatively well-developed in prose as he traveled with the Doctor and revealed a history of being crafted as a Gelsandoran weapon of war, his two televised appearances in ‘The King’s Demons’ and ‘Planet of Fire’ only hinted at the potential that his android nature, shape-changing abilities, and openness to being influenced presented. With the enigma that is Kamelion only being felt previously in 2007’s ‘Winter’ for Big Finish, Cavan Scott’s ‘Devil in the Mist’ finally gives him his first meaningful appearance in the audio medium.

Scott, of course, has achieved great success not only with Big Finish but also with Titan Comics, and ‘Devil in the Mist’ absolutely feels like a comic come to life given its larger-than-life supporting cast, relentless pacing, and continual introductions of new dangers and obstacles at every turn. For precisely this reason, however, the opening episode that remains in a single locale is by far the most successful, creating a truly ominous and dangerous atmosphere as the TARDIS lands on a prison ship housing Nustanu, the last warlord of the monstrous Zamglitti race that could mimic to fool foes and turn into mist to avoid entrapment of any kind. Simon Slater imbues an incredible amount of power and menace to this foe that creates an instant impact, and the very real and profoundly unique threat he poses sets the scene for an immense conflict that will test this burgeoning team to its extreme.

However, while it is true that the Doctor, Tegan, Turlough, and Kamelion absolutely are tested when the ship crashes and they find themselves separated from each other and from the TARDIS within mists perfectly suited for Nustanu, the progression of danger after danger feels somewhat disjointed and almost haphazard despite a very clear narrative flow. Thus, while the interpersonal conflicts and relationships that have developed between the leads as well as between the guesting hippopotamus-like Horajians with their female-dominated society are strong and thrust Tegan into a particular spotlight given her inherent distrust of Kamelion and lingering uncertainty about Turlough, there is simply too much occurring to lend any one event the weight it needs to fully resonate. Accordingly, while the Doctor breaking his back and becoming immobilized should rightly be a tremendous focus for any story, there’s surprisingly little done with it here, perhaps because continuity dictates that this will not be a permanent or even residual concern for the Doctor and his companions. Indeed, the Doctor plays it off as if nothing is wrong when in contact with Tegan and simply accepts that this is the way things are and that he may regenerate while being carried through the environment and waxing lyrical about his past on Gallifrey.

To be fair, that injury as well as the water through which Tegan was forced to prove her resourcefulness by rafting to ensure her rendezvous do tie directly in with the resolution, but even this is just another plot point with little buildup. Though it’s clear that Tegan’s previous injury that has healed will correlate with the Doctor’s, the introduction of an all-encompassing threat in the final act with no other foreshadowing beforehand is somewhat underwhelming, especially given the excellent workup that went into introducing Nustanu, and the boastful misdirection the Doctor uses to get what he wants by calling upon his reputation and importance to the universe seems strangely out of place for this milder and more gentlemanly incarnation despite how well Davison plays it.

Jon Culshaw is tasked with bringing Kamelion to life once more, and he manages to imbue a somewhat ethereal quality to tones that hint at the android’s introduction as King John. It’s clear that this is a being developing a conscience and trying to understand the nuances of those around him while being so subjected to and influenced by their thoughts and actions, and this unique characterisation should continue to pay tremendous dividends as future stories unfold. In fact, his unsteady relationship with Tegan in particular is spectacular and leads to one of the standout scenes in the story as Tegan is forced to look inwards at herself, and the contrast between the more cynical Tegan and the more open-minded and trusting Doctor as Turlough takes a more practical approach highlights the unique chemistry and tension that exists on board the TARDIS at this particular time. Still, in the end this feels like a story that tries to fit in as many different ideas and sequences as it can even if that means foregoing some of the strong previous work along the way, making the end result highly enjoyable but still more uneven and somewhat superficial than expected.

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