Released August 2014
The Zygons, with only one televised serial in the entire classic run of Doctor Who, have endured in the public consciousness as one of the greatest and most iconic villains the franchise has ever offered, enough to earn them a starring role in the blockbuster fiftieth anniversary special. With their incredibly organic design and shape-shifting prowess, and their reputation undoubtedly bolstered by not being overused like the Daleks or Cybermen, they unquestionably present one of the most unique threats the Doctor periodically comes across. Now, as the third series of Big Finish’s The Fourth Doctor Adventures draws to a close, Tom Baker fittingly gets the opportunity to confront the famed foes once more.
Though the issue of The Fourth Doctor Adventures seemingly being content to revel in nostalgia and to offer rather straightforward tales perfectly encapsulating the essence of the Baker years is a recurrent one, that notion is perhaps more noticeable in a story that serves as a season finale, especially one with such an intriguing atmosphere built up as the Doctor and Leela become entwined in a deadly hunt where there is no clear friend or foe and where tremendous secrets lurk in the shadows on the planet Garros. Even without the focus on the Zygons, who are inexplicably not revealed until the cliffhanger of episode one despite their prominent feature in the title and on the cover, there are several missed opportunities to deliver a powerful message about hunting or the human condition, the script instead content to simply use them as convenient narrative devices while it seemingly forgets its alien setting and begins to recycle the plot of ‘Terror of the Zygons.’ Because the running time of this story is even shorter than usual, neither the Zygons nor the supporting human cast have any time to really become developed, even Mina who the script attempts to make sympathetic, serving their purpose well enough for the plot but ultimately leaving no lasting mark after the story concludes.
Tom Baker has a wonderful soliloquy that rounds off the release, but it also draws into focus the fact that the rather more self-reflective journey intimated in the first two releases of this series never came to fruition. Baker and Jameson are as utterly enthralling as always, and it’s a pleasure to see minor elements hinting at character development snuck into the script, but for now it’s up to future seasons to potentially pick up where ‘The King of Sontar’ and ‘White Ghosts’ suggested the characters were going. All of this is not squarely the blame of ‘Zygon Hunt,’ but a season finale does intrinsically and emphatically carry more weight than preceding stories because of its placement. As a result, those looking for a blisteringly-paced adventure high on action will be pleased; on the other hand, those looking for a deeper look at the lead characters in a fresh realm with true consequences and messages will be sorely disappointed. The Zygons have been used to great effect in Big Finish’s The Eighth Doctor Adventures range, but here they are more of a safety net for a more traditional tale that is satisfying but hardly memorable.