Winter for the Adept

Posted in Audio by - February 23, 2016
Winter for the Adept

Released July 2000

‘Winter for the Adept’ finds Nyssa stranded in the Swiss Alps in 1963, an unintended result of the Doctor’s experiment. She is duly rescued by a local policeman Lt Peter Sandoz and taken to a ladies’ finishing school that just so happens to be the only establishment in the area. Mysterious, seemingly supernatural events are occurring in the school snowed in by a blizzard, the perfect place for the Doctor to happen upon during his search for Nyssa.

One of the big draws of this story is that is written by Andrew Cartmel, ‘Masterplan’ script editor of the Seventh Doctor era and author of three fantastic New Adventures novels. It seems strange, then, that his first audio outing features the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa but, regardless, the core concept behind the script as well as the atmosphere work quite well as he puts a unique spin on the haunted house genre. While this may seem like a story suited best for the Seventh Doctor, ‘Winter for the Adept’ proves just like ‘The Spectre of Lanyon Moor’ before it that taking a Doctor out of his ‘normal’ story environment can still provide a thoroughly enjoyable adventure.

The story revolves around the seeming presence of a poltergeist in the house, the perfect basis for a Doctor Who story, but the issue that presents itself is that poltergeist phenomena are very visual moments. Whereas objects levitating and shooting across the room would be a great spectacle on screen, those same moments lose their effectiveness when reliant upon a character saying everything that is happening. While this is a necessity of the medium to an extent, the amount of similar scenes is somewhat repetitive, and the amount of description going into the explanation is sometimes tedious. None of this detracts from the overall experience, but it would have been nice to offer some more variation in presentation of facts somehow.

The performances for the most part are quite good and aptly portray a realistic variety of responses to the strange goings-on. As expected, Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton are strong anchors for the proceedings, Sutton proving she can be a strong solo lead as she carries the events of the first episode while the Doctor is absent. The Doctor in particular, while still retaining his good humour and likability, seems a bit more grounded than his optimistic television persona; whether that was a conscious scripting and acting decision or not, it works very well for this story and lends him a slightly loftier sense of gravitas than he is usually afforded. Peter Jurasik as the suspicious Sandoz, India Fisher as the determined Peril Bellamy, and Sally Faulkner as the Headmistress, are particular highlights from the guest cast and help to round out the story as a whole.

‘Winter of the Adept’ falls short of attaining a classic status, but the great atmosphere and strong array of performers help to compensate for the necessity of including such lengthy bits of description and expository dialogue. The last episode veers in a rather unexpected direction quite quickly, and the Spillagers seem almost superfluous to what is already a very good climactic twist on expectations, but the resolution still feels satisfying and after so much strangeness and mystery preceding it.

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