Released September 2011
Following the 150th release anthology special, Big Finish returns to its series of three Seventh Doctor stories, the Doctor this time crossing paths with Nostradamus in sixteenth-century Florence. As the city goes about its normal business, the citizens are puzzled as the disgraced seer’s prophecies start to come true and the canals of Venice dried. As the end of the world approaches with fire, ships, and monsters just as Nostradamus predicted, the only beacon of hope is the one thing he did not foresee- the improbable Doctor arriving in his improbable TARDIS.
Initially following the pseudo-historical format to the letter as crocodilian aliens use the planet for target practice, ‘The Doomsday Quatrain’ completely subverts expectations halfway through, making the overall release rather more intriguing in the process. As it turns out, the Earth presented here is actually a sort of futuristic artificial reality populated by clone beings, created for weapons testing prior to transactions. While this ends up detracting from the meaningful presence of Nostradamus and makes both Florence and the character intriguing filler with no real weight, the twist also allows the clone beings to struggle with the reality of their situation as they come to realize the truth, facing the ultimate conflict of just how real they truly are. It’s an effective storyline that has been used in the modern television series, and it works just as well here.
Unfortunately the alien foes are not quite as fleshed out as they could be, the Crocodilian Crowe clearly dangerous with their nasty habit of eating each other but ultimately presented as a rather ineffective force with no real motivation. On the other hand, the highly-advanced Poldigons voiced excellently by John Banks and Caroline Keiff are much more intriguing, but again quite why they are building these planetary facilities to create artificial realities is never fully explored, another very fascinating idea that doesn’t quite come to full fruition. On a side note, the Poldigons seem to have knowledge of the sonic screwdriver without knowing who the Doctor is, suggesting that the Doctor’s most trusted instrument may be a general Gallifreyan invention rather than one unique to him.
‘The Doomsday Quatrain’ is, almost literally, a tale of two halves. While both halves hold incredible merit on their own, combining both into one release actually has the overall effect of diminishing and undermining both. There isn’t quite enough time dedicated to the clones and the alien plans in the later half, but the focus on those aspects means that Florence and Nostradamus fade from importance as the story progresses. This is all the more unfortunate because David Schofield offers a truly brilliant performance as Nostradamus, easily the highlight of the overall release. Despite McCoy’s equally strong performance, once more showing that the Seventh Doctor is incredibly effective when traveling on his own, it seems as though more could have been done with these two brilliant figures meeting and discussing differences in ideologies.
At the end of it all, ‘The Doomsday Quatrain’ is a story full of intrigue and potential that tries to do a bit too much while ultimately offering a bit too little. Strong performances and an intriguing plot twist aren’t quite enough to make up for what ends up being a rather average release filled with missed opportunities.