Released February 2006
At the time of Doctor Who’s cancellation in 1989, several stories had been produced for a tentative twenty-seventh series. ‘Night Thoughts’ is the first of those concepts Big Finish has brought to fruition in its main range, crafting an incredibly atmospheric and altogether creepy tale that perfectly evokes the tone of the era while deftly incorporating Philip Olivier’s Hex.
Four tenured teachers are spending a university break at a mansion on Gravonox Island, a Scottish isle that had been used for nerve gas testing in World War II. The traveling trio of the Doctor, Ace, and Hex- following a psychic distress call- end up trapped alongside the four teachers when a massive incoming storm ambushes them. When one of the teachers ends up dead, the relationship between the surviving colleagues becomes the subject of investigation and a multitude of questions are raised regarding hidden studies into time travel, mysterious events ten years ago in the laboratory upstairs, unsettling efforts with taxidermy, and a young maid who uses a shabby stuffed rabbit as a mouthpiece when stressed.
Given the isolated setting and complex plot featuring hints of the supernatural, it’s only natural that at least superficial comparisons to the very evocative ‘Ghost Light’ should be drawn. Still, writer Edward Young does a masterful job creating his own very visceral and visual atmosphere, each scene dripping with disturbing imagery and an oft-repeated recording of the Doctor only serving to heighten the uneasy trepidation. This is a tale that could easily make the transition to television given the incredible descriptions, but the very realistic manner in which each character reacts to the horrors carries the audio experience while developing them as well-rounded people perfectly. There are a few plot points that perhaps don’t get the full payoff they deserve as a couple of events are accepted rather nonchalantly, but overall this is a spectacularly intricate plot that captivates from beginning to end and shows that karma is alive and well.
‘Night Thoughts’ captures the quintessential mysterious Seventh Doctor, one who understands the extent of the events to come before anyone else even realizes there’s an issue. He uses his companions, brings up the most minor of details, and even knowingly takes part in an experiment with foreknowledge of its inevitable ending, balancing human life and the sanctity of time until a final decision must be made. As for the companions, Ace and Hex both undergo a lot of emotional stress during this tale, and it’s nice to see that their relationship has developed into one more like siblings even though Hex clearly harbours a bit of a crush for Ace. While Aldred plays Ace perfectly as the experienced traveler who can take events more in her stride, Olivier captures the enthusiastic inquisitiveness of a novice explorer trying to retain his sense of morals.
The supporting cast of Bernard Kay, Ann Beach, Andrew Forbes, Joanna McCallum, Duncan Duff, and Lizzie Hopley round out the release perfectly, each giving a genuinely moving performance as the secrets behind the group’s activities and that of the manor’s past are revealed. Although primitive time travel slowly reveals itself, the truth and consequences of the paradox of life and death that manifest are altogether more unnerving. The Seventh Doctor is unquestionably the best choice to deal with concerns about tampering with time, and the resolution is just another strong and satisfying moment in a release full of them.