‘Nyssa will die at dawn, and the Doctor doesn’t even know why.
To save her life, he must make a desperate journey to the only place in the universe where a cure might exist.
When even that fails, the Doctor has a choice – let Nyssa die, or make a deal with the devil.
After all, the road to hell is paved with good intentions…”
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these reviews!! I think one of the biggest shames in all of 80’s Doctor Who was cramming so many characters into Peter Davison’s TARDIS so that there wasn’t really a way for any character to really stand out. For me, usually these characters stood out for the absolute wrong reasons – Tegan and Adric always arguing with The Doctor for no reason then getting hurt because they ignored something he told them to do absolutely irks me. I always wanted more Nyssa and Turlough!
With Big Finish Audios my prayers have been answered as some of these pairings were given new adventures to play around with, and it’s really making me LOVE parts of Doctor Who that I wasn’t a fan of with the TV show. Case and point, me flipping my opinion on both Peter Davison and Colin Baker’s runs on the show.
When Doctor Who tackles larger than life God-tier villains, it’s always a bit hit or miss for me. Most of these episodes have some sort of ham-fisted agenda either vilifying religion or somehow propping it up. Then in some really weird cases, it somehow does both. sometimes I end up absolutely loving such episodes much like what happened with The Rings of Akhaten, or it could go south in episodes like just about any that have “The Devil” in them. I think my leanings towards Gnosticism tend to make me predestined to get excited about stories where mortals stand up to self-described deities, so there is that.
Usually, episodes like this have a Stargate vibe where ancient aliens have been worshiped as gods when they are not. Luckily, this story flips this trope on it’s head a bit by coming to a planet where the is basically no religion whatsoever, only to discover that the planet was basically founded by a creature named Kwundaar that in many ways was their god until they decided to lock him out. Inadvertently, The Doctor tries to help Nyssa but accidentally helps Kwundaar once again become the God-king of Traken. There’s a bit of a jab at organized religion where suddenly people convert to worshiping the creature simply to save their own lives.
One thing I enjoy a lot about this episode is that it fills a few gaps into the Doctor Who continuity. This story portrays the planet Traken three thousand years before TV: The Keeper of Traken. It also tells how the Keeper’s position came to be. Having some backstory to this and showing how the society was set up was a nice touch. Another nice touch was finally explaining why Nyssa collapsed in an old TV episode, Four to Doomsday, and how she magically obtained telepathic powers in Time-Flight. It appears that both are direct results of Kwundaar’s manipulations.
I also enjoyed that The Doctor was able to defeat Kwundaar in a way that was not a cheat or a contrivance. With a lot of episodes like this resulting in something silly like “love saves day!” I’m glad that didn’t happen.