The Grey Man of the Mountain

Posted in Audio by - December 12, 2020
The Grey Man of the Mountain

Released December 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The second of two December instalments in Big Finish’s The Monthly Adventures, Lizbeth Myles’s ‘The Grey Man of the Mountain’ finds the retired Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart visiting Scotland to investigate the sheer terror and paranoia that have developed in some who have dared to attempt to reach the summit of Ben MacDui and the unexplained disappearances of others. When the Doctor and Ace arrive en route to Hogmanay in Edinburgh, they must all confront the truth that lies within the mists and snow of the dangerous terrain.

Holiday affairs tend to be much more light-hearted and even campy to match the spirit of the season, but the wintry backdrop of ‘The Grey Man of the Mountain’ only serves to accentuate and intensify the stark harshness of this mountain and the much more subdued and sombre affair that unfolds. Indeed, this is a story that relies on a very deliberate pacing to maintain its tension, interjecting only brief action sequences to break up a very psychological battle against both the environment and the unexpected origin of the local folk lore. The plot itself is surprisingly light and straightforward, and although Ace’s early decision to break away from the Doctor and begin scaling the mountain a day earlier with only a vlogger for company does seem a bit rash even for this most tempestuous of companions, the split narrative expertly amplifies the danger while allowing events to unfold from two related and yet wholly distinct perspectives.

Because of Nicholas Courtney’s unfortunate passing in 2011, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart featured only three times in the first fifty instalments of this range, but impressionist Jon Culshaw has ably stepped into The Third Doctor Adventures range since 2019 to give voice to this wonderful character once more. Though Culshaw doesn’t quite have the deep resonance of Courtney’s commanding voice, he perfectly captures the mannerisms and sheer power of the Brigadier and in monthly release 272 makes it seem as though no time at all has passed since 1989’s ‘Battlefield’ when Lethbridge-Stewart and this particular incarnation of the Doctor last crossed paths. There is little question that Culshaw will be a major selling point for this release, and although the plot does share some similarities with one of Big Finish’s earliest outings in this range, ‘The Spectre of Lanyon Moor,’ the Brigadier is a standout success here that hopefully opens the door to further interactions with any and all Doctors going forward. The Seventh Doctor’s darkness and secrecy is the perfect counterpoint to this militaristic mind, and Sylvester McCoy and Culshaw share a wonderful chemistry from beginning to end that genuinely hints at just how profoundly important these two characters are to each other and how each has rubbed off on the other with the Brigadier even now proclaiming that he will always put science first.

Because the unnerving tension stemming from the environment itself paired with the genuine fear of the unknown are so incredibly important to this story, no character receives particularly standout material outside of the Brigadier. McCoy and Sophie Aldred give their typically strong performances as the Doctor and Ace respectively to drive the mysterious and fear-filled plot forward, but Guy Adams, Lucy Goldie, and Vivien Reid somewhat fall to the wayside despite their characters’ obvious importance. Unfortunately, Youssef Kerkour’s excessively blustering Kanner does manage to stand out for all the wrong reasons, and the obvious red herring he serves as only further underscores the more telegraphed notions of a plot that perhaps runs a bit longer than its content can reasonably support. Nonetheless, the direction and sound design ensure a smooth progression even if the remote recording that COVID-19 has forced does here result in some scenes in which the voices seem to be coming from different places, and anyone looking for a more atmospheric tale in these colder months will find plenty to enjoy with this more deliberate and thought-provoking narrative.

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