Nightmare Country

Posted in Audio by - November 18, 2019
Nightmare Country

Released November 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Reviving The Lost Stories range that has remained dormant since 2013, Big Finish turns to Steve Gallagher’s ‘Nightmare Country’ that was originally intended for season twenty-one to once more offer a glimpse at what might have been. When the Doctor wakes up with no memory of who he is on a dead and hostile world that he cannot remember coming to, he soon realises that the very foundation of reality itself is at risk.

There is certainly no shortage of ambition in ‘Nightmare Country,’ and it’s quite easy to believe that the immense scope and visual technicalities of a world and elements that can literally be thought into existence by groups of engineers gave just cause for the script to be passed on so many years ago given the inherent limitations that television presents. Nonetheless, this is a brilliant conceit for a story, and the Doctor voluntarily entering one of these shared dream states of creativity while the TARDIS is repaired opens up plenty of storytelling avenues, especially when things predictably go wrong and nobody retains any of their previous memories. Suddenly surrounded by a world that seems to change on a whim but with perceptions that can’t necessarily process that changes have occurred, these people suddenly find themselves the victims of sabotage and hidden motives that threaten more than just the fledgling world in which they exist. As the outside world struggles to find a way to get in and communicate with the one man who should know where and how to exit, the boundaries between conscious and subconscious realities prove deadlier and more tenuous than anyone could have imagined.

Unfortunately, while there is plenty of imagination throughout, the plot is somewhat muddled and seems to jump around with less focused direction than is typical. Part of this decision is surely with the intent to build the mystery and danger from multiple angles and in two realities, but large portions seem quite meandering in execution and pace and instead give a sense of padding that could have been more efficiently streamlined. Still, the performances are uniformly strong, and Janet Fielding in particular excels as Tegan enters the madness partway through the story during a brush with death and opens up to reveal a more vulnerable state than her brash exterior often allows. Peter Davison carries the engineered world capably as his Doctor’s innate shrewdness begins to piece together the enigma around him, and Edward Dede stands out as an apprentice engineer who must take charge as the actions of the man he admires so much are called into question. This is a story brimming with great science fiction concepts that the cast believably sells without alienating the audience, but the motivations and thoughts at all levels of consciousness that guide the unintended mayhem as the Vodyani threat grows could have featured more concisely and robustly to make the pursuit and climax all the more engaging and memorable.

‘Nightmare Country’ has all of the makings of an imaginative blockbuster and it certainly deserves the opportunity Big Finish has afforded it to become a reality like the world of its plot. While the end result is something of a mixed bag, however, it nonetheless offers another fascinating glimpse into ideas and plotlines of the past that remain so relevant today even if it ultimately can’t quite escape the initial fiction of its premise to offer the hard-hitting look at fluid memories, thoughts, motivations, and consequences that is hidden just beneath the surface.

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