Released April 2012
Under the pretense of watching a cricket match and enjoying a relaxing vacation, the Fifth Doctor alongside Nyssa, Tegan, and Turlough, return to the Big Finish forefront as they arrive in 1926 Calcutta. However, when a seemingly rabid man promptly bites Nyssa and the TARDIS with its curative supplies is loaded onto a private train and rushed away, a harrowing expedition and journey into the lost world of the mythical emerald tiger instead ensues.
The setting and atmosphere are unquestionably the strongest aspects of this story, both in recreating India and the jungle, in the process exuding the very essence of Rudyard Kipling and classic adventure movies. In fact, the story has no qualms about making allusion to The Jungle Book, weaving elements of it throughout and paying off at the end satisfyingly. This is a story that requires much more sound effects than usual, and Big Finish steps up to the task admirably to bring both the wild dangers of the untamed wilderness and of modern technology to life incredibly realistically.
‘The Emerald Tiger’ is also a very busy story, tying together many plot threads and proceeding at breakneck pace from beginning to end. An entrance to a magical world lost to time found some eighteen years ago and then barricaded and fissured by dynamite is a fascinating core concept, but the story of personal loss, vengeance, and the truth behind the hidden realm creates a wholly satisfying premise that easily warrants the full running time of the story. The story wisely knows when to cut away to another plotline, always maintaining anticipation without creating a sense of frustration, and, no matter how disparate they initially seem, each dovetails into the conclusion expertly. This is a tale with lots of twists and turns as motivations and truths are revealed, far too many to discuss in detail, and it ends up being a tremendous journey for all involved with action that never relents. In particular, this is the best written and delivered portrayal of Tegan so far, her apparent death carrying staggering emotional weight that makes her surprisingly triumphant return later on all the more memorable.
The lasting legacy of this play in the non-televised world of Doctor Who, though, is the idea and fallout of the Emerald Tiger itself. A crystal formed at the very heart of a supernova and then ejected into space just before the star collapsed, its fluke collision with Earth has made it the most perfect biological repair unit on the planet. With its penchant for life, it can easily break apart and recombine molecules into their most viable format, in the process curing any malady as diseased components are replaced by healthier ones. Nyssa, of course, becomes the focal point given her experience at the start of the story and her psychic interludes in the interim, but her complete rejuvenation back to her younger form and the shocked responses from everyone that follow are all played well, and this is a plot development that will surely have ramifications down the line.
‘The Emerald Tiger’ is the first story featuring these four leads that makes excellent use of each without sidelining anyone, highlighting their very best aspects and giving each memorable and important dialogue and scenes. Bolstered by a strong supporting cast, an incredible soundscape that captures the exotic nature of the release perfectly, and a fascinatingly action-packed and emotionally-driven script that never relents, ‘The Emerald Tiger’ is unquestionably another Big Finish masterpiece that belongs alongside the Fifth Doctor’s best.