Released May 2011
Turlough was sadly overlooked during the first run of stories featuring the reunion of Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Mark Strickson, and Janet Fielding, but he is squarely the focal point of ‘Kiss of Death.’ Finding himself in a strange, wintry palace, Turlough encounters a familiar face from his past while discovering that he is somehow connected to an ancient treasure; meanwhile, his companions must fight for their lives to escape the cold catacombs guarded by the fearsome alien Morass.
Because Turlough is every bit the centre of this story, his companions do feel rather relegated to the sidelines. Peter Davison has, of course, had his dialogue and shining moments decreased due simply to the presence of three companions, and that trend sadly continues here as well. And although Nyssa has a very dramatic moment beseeching the Doctor not to push her away and Tegan seems quite happy with her current situation before foreshadowing her own departure when exclaiming it’s time to leave when it stops being fun, these two companions are very much secondary as well.
Instead the story relies on the performances of Mark Strickson and Lucy Adams as two inseparable lovers who were torn apart long ago, Turlough and Deela in essence living the roles of Romeo and Juliet with their families on opposing sides of a war. The chemistry between the two may not be as strong as some of the other loving pairs in recent Big Finish releases, but it certainly doesn’t detract from the overall experience and, in fact, may be purposeful given the twists the plot takes as it progresses. Regardless, the information divulged about the history of Turlough and Trion as well as the truth of the treasure and the Morass are wonderful, adding an emotional layer to the character of Turlough while still allowing him plenty of opportunity to showcase his acerbic wit and priority of self. Mark Strickson hasn’t had much opportunity to stand in the spotlight for a long time, but he certainly proves that he is up to the task here and easily carries the weight of this release on his shoulders.
Part of the intrigue surrounding Turlough is how evasive he is about his past. Hearing him so brazenly and openly discuss everything about himself- while welcome and satisfying- does feel a bit disjointed from his rather sizeable number of appearances across various forms of media. Stephen Cole’s trademark cracking dialogue is present to help things along, but there are far too many areas filled with exposition that can’t be ignored. Rather than allowing the audience and characters to discover events naturally and fluidly, pertinent information is often simply stated instead, and this is especially apparent in the story’s conclusion following the climax. When dealing with such a history-laden story for one of the more underexplored characters in Doctor Who this is to be expected to some extent, but the jarring changes in pace as the dialogue and action fight for precedence is notable.
Even as the majority of the regulars are put into a secondary subplot, Stephen Cole has managed to capture the vibe of the era perfectly, certainly no easy task. It may be bit too dialogue-laden and slow down considerably after the blistering initial scenes, but the insight offered into Turlough’s character and Strickson’s wonderful performance certainly make this an intriguing listen nonetheless.