Released December 2013
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW
The early Fourth Doctor era is renowned for its more horror-laden stylings, and while the first series of Big Finish’s The Fourth Doctor Adventures have only lightly incorporated that beloved genre, Marc Platt’s ‘Night of the Stormcrow’ makes the most of its claustrophobic atmosphere and its sense of familiarity amidst an unknowable threat to create a tense tale that would be perfectly at home within producer Philip Hinchcliffe’s seasons at the helm.
Intensifying the anxiety and conflict by not even having the Doctor know what is occurring is a familiar plot device occasionally used throughout Doctor Who’s lengthy history, and it’s employed to spectacular effect in ‘Night of the Stormcrow’ as well. Indeed, purposefully leaving an air of mystery around the Stormcrow, the No Things, and the seeming symbiotic relationship between the two that together somehow consume both matter and time maintains a sense of mystery and danger all the way to the very end. Of course, the isolated observatory and the strange orbiting object that no piece of equipment other than the optical telescope can detect sets up the story nicely, and the revelation that the Stormcrow is a scavenger that has been circling the Earth for millennia, always hiding from the sunlight and waiting for the planet to die, is wonderfully evocative and effective as the plot progresses. Marc Platt has always been one of the most imaginative Doctor Who writers, and his creativity is on full display here.
Big Finish’s Bonus Release range has been a consistently strong one, and though some of the stories seem more superfluous than others, they have always made the most of their lead actors, highlighting the dynamic presence that each brings to the franchise. That is unquestionably the case with ‘Night of the Stormcrow’ as well, and Tom Baker excels as he instills a black humour to his undoubted heroism and sinister warnings about the danger surrounding them, proving just how important his companions are to him along the way. Concurrently, Louise Jameson excels as the ever-resourceful Leela, offering a unique and accessible perspective to help discover and explain the escalating dangers and excelling at a powerful scene of reflection and introspection when needed. With only the Doctor and Leela able to figure out the truth as Chase Masterson’s Peggy seeks profit and Ann Bell’s Professor Cazalet becomes obsessed with potential fame regarding her discovery, it’s sadly believable and fitting that the Doctor may lose faith in those around him and consider abandoning them to face their doomed fate alone.
Quite frankly, and regardless of its free bonus status, ‘Night of the Stormcrow’ may be the most wholly satisfying entry in The Fourth Doctor Adventures through two series, not really innovating or doing much with its supporting cast beyond the two main guest stars but still expertly encapsulating everything that has made the Hinchcliffe era so fondly remembered while showcasing a wealth of imagination and atmosphere. With superb direction from Nicholas Briggs that brings out a heightened sense of suspense and a stunning score and sound design from Jamie Robertson, ‘Night of the Stormcrow’ is a well-paced and enthralling adventure that proves to a be a fitting reward for subscribers and a strong advertisement for Big Finish’s fledgling Tom Baker-led range and Big Finish as a whole.