Way of the Burryman

Posted in Audio by - February 26, 2022
Way of the Burryman

Released February 2022


Following his excursion to Fond Farewell, the Doctor has realized that it is best to leave nothing unsaid between acquaintances, friends, and loved ones. Traveling to Scotland where Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is investigating stories of hauntings at the Forth Bridge, the Doctor reunites with perhaps his greatest friend in the opener of the two-part conclusion to the first series of The Ninth Doctor Adventures, ‘Way of the Burryman’ by Roy Gill.

Given how important the Brigadier has been to the legacy and mythology of Doctor Who, it’s more than fitting that the incarnation who is so scarred by the Time War should seek out the shrewd military man whom he developed an immense respect for even if the two butted heads on countless occasions over their years working together. The Ninth Doctor has never been one to hide his emotions, and even when he asserts a gruff and authoritative exterior, he never leaves in doubt just how much his strong emotions and sense of morality fuel him. In this respect, he is all too similar with the Brigadier, although he hardly cares for his old friend’s glib suggestion that the Doctor will become a military man yet given his buzzed hair.

Christopher Eccleston is incredibly strong in a somewhat reduced featured time, and he adeptly delves into the vast emotions that such a reunion should entail as the Doctor quickly apprises the situation at hand and begins his own investigations in the architecture and history of the Forth Bridge. And Jon Culshaw, whose Brigadier has been an increasingly common feature in Big Finish’s offerings once again gives a remarkable performance as Lethbridge-Stewart. He doesn’t quite fully differentiate this elder version of the character who just can’t quite stay away from UNIT despite his retirement from the version he typically plays, but the cadence and intonations are absolutely perfect and fully capture the magic of Nicholas Courtney as the two friends go on one more dangerous adventure filled with plenty of references to past glories.

Unfortunately, ‘Way of the Burryman’ does suffer from very clearly being the first half of a two-part story and from refusing to admit that the Cybermen are the featured foe until the last possible moment despite the cover art all too clearly advertising their presence. While that format can work in some cases, there simply isn’t enough material to sustain this episode’s running time before that reveal, and the slower pace and excess padding makes some portions of the story a bit more laborious than they should be. Nonetheless, the somewhat strained relationship between Sam Bishop and Fiona McCall as the former wants to explore the world and the latter wants to stay here to continue her research into the local history is a suitably engaging one that introduces the scope of the purported hauntings well. Whether a specific audience member has familiarity with where this young Sam’s story will ultimately head with UNIT or not is irrelevant, and Warren Brown and Elinor Lawless do well to capture the nuances of this relationship and each character’s desires and motivations well.

With a strong use of the Scottish setting and environment with local folklore as well as great music and sound design, ‘Way of the Burryman’ has several strengths to proudly display. However, character work and reminiscing can only do so much to alleviate the sense that this story spends a good portion of its time spinning its wheels until it’s finally ready to reveal its Cyberman and the Doctor’s mistake to set the stage for the conclusion.

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