Released June 2015
‘The Cloisters of Terror’ marks a return to the gothic horror of the Philip Hinchcliffe era for The Fourth Doctor Adventures following a run of more experimental tales that would not have so easily slotted into the established televised era. As the Dean of St Matilda’s College, Dame Emily Shaw, calls upon the police to solve the mystery of a missing student, the Doctor and Leela slowly uncover the secret behind the story of the former convent’s three ghostly nuns that reaches back a thousand years.
As is the case with many stories in this range, the one-hour format doesn’t allow too much exploration of the characters or the setting, and the plot does end up feeling rather straightforward and somewhat rushed as a result. Nonetheless, ‘The Cloisters of Terror’ is exceedingly confident with its story, and the truth behind the geometric progression of the hushed disappearances of girls at the convent throughout the centuries revealing that they have been kidnapped to save the world from a crashed alien ship is a clever subversion of expectations that comes to life wonderfully. With the astral projections from the ship simply a smokescreen, writer Jonathan Morris is able to achieve some nice layering with the script that further makes use of the inherently creepy environment to help sustain such an evocative atmosphere throughout.
It goes without saying at this point that Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are both on top form and share an excellent camaraderie, but it seems somewhat odd to have the Doctor so nonchalantly blend into a women’s college with hardly a second thought. This type of setting is filled with potential drama, both among the pupils and regarding the Doctor, but the time constraints result in these paths remaining unexplored in order to streamline the story. It is nice to see him acknowledge his UNIT status to gain entranceand favour, though, and the appearance of Rowena Cooper’s Emily Shaw, mother of one-time companion Liz Shaw introduced in The Companion Chronicles story ‘The Last Post,’ is a nice nod to continuity even if she is somewhat less self-assured here than in her debut. Unfortunately, she, too, is not afforded the time needed to allow the discussions and reflections so necessary for her character given her daughter’s importance to the Doctor. It’s also somewhat odd timing-wise that Leela would become hypnotized to try to harm the Doctor so quickly after a similar thread was explored in ‘The Evil One.’
‘The Cloisters of Terror’ effortlessly recaptures the Philip Hinchcliffe era, aided by some superb work from sound designer Jamie Robertson who breathes detailed life into the familiar surroundings. This, again, is not a story that will necessarily challenge its listeners, but that doesn’t seem to be the intent of The Fourth Doctor Adventures as a whole. Instead, this is a perfectly entertaining and logical tale full of atmosphere that will appease long-time fans with its nods to continuity and use of Tom Baker. The two-episode format does leave much unexplored that could easily warrant another two parts added on to create a much more developed and intimate story, but within the confines of the time limit it still works very well.