The Veiled Leopard

Posted in Audio by - January 11, 2019
The Veiled Leopard

Released March 2006

Originally released with Doctor Who Magazine issue 367, four time travelers descend upon a costume ball with two contradictory but complementary missions stemming from two distinct versions of the Doctor in ‘The Veiled Leopard’ by Iain McLaughlin and Claire Bartlett.

The titular diamond itself has an immensely interesting history far more grandiose than a typical jewel ever could, and the revelation that a dying alien race encoded the data necessary to rebuild their civilisation into it adds a certain sense of urgency and gravitas to what overall is a typical heist tale with a lighter tone. Other aliens destroyed the ship taking the crystal to its new planet in hopes of gaining the technology for themselves, but the Doctor intervened and took the crystal that was too fragile to withstand time travel to the royals of ancient Egypt to ensure its safety through the ages until what would have been its designated time of arrival. It’s through this that Erimem has a direct connection to the crystal since she buried her father, Pharaoh Amenhotep II, with it in his pyramid, only to later discover that it was stolen by grave robbers and eventually made its way into the collection of industrialist Gavin Walker. As Walker has plans to collect the insurance on the diamond by setting up a false heist, the Fifth Doctor begrudgingly acts at the behest of his Seventh self by sending his companions to stop the robbery while the Seventh sends his own companions to steal the diamond themselves.

Although the fascinating setting of 1966 Monte Carlo isn’t able to be explored in detail due to the brief running time of two distinct halves running concurrently with different leads, ‘The Veiled Leopard’ delivers an equally fascinating premise of companions from different eras- each pair with one from television and one unique to audio- taking part in an adventure. While it is a shame that the pairs don’t actually get the chance to interact and, indeed, are oblivious to the similarities they share with their counterparts, having Peri and Erimem prevent a wealthy jewel thief looking to help charity from stealing the diamond so that Ace and Hex can cooperate with the thief’s accomplice to steal the diamond and substitute it with two fakes to help expose the planned fraud is nonetheless a brilliant foundation for this special release that allows the wonderful dynamics of these pairings to come to the forefront. Peri is certainly not one to pass up a party as she again meets history first-hand while Erimem continues to experience novel firsts while here confronting her own history, and the genuine and affectionate friendship the two share is wonderfully portrayed. Likewise, though this is a Hex still harbouring a crush on his new friend, the more controlling dynamic of Ace alongside the well-meaning Hex who simply cannot feign a posh mindset is equally engaging in a wholly distinct manner.

This is one of a very few Big Finish stories- along with ‘Peri and the Piscatons’ and ‘Flip-Flop’- that tells two overlapping stories concurrently, but the execution is pulled off immeasurably well and helps to create a truly memorable tale that is also one of the rare comedy pastiches in Doctor Who history given its shared foundations with The Pink Panther. Though the unfortunate exclusion of any further information about this mysterious alien civilisation and the omission of any true interaction between these two pairs are notable and keep the story from reaching its full potential, ‘The Veiled Leopard’ is nonetheless a strong example of what the long history of the franchise allows and how unrestrictive with format its basic premise is.

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