“Black Thursday/Power Game” is a Doctor Who audio drama double bill release from Big Finish Productions with a pair of two-part adventures with Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor. He is once again accompanied by Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson, playing Tegan and Turlough, respectively. Jon Culshaw is voicing the shape-shifting android known as Kamelion.
“Black Thursday” is the first story and is written by Jamie Anderson. The Doctor and his companions arrive in a Welsh village in the very early twentieth century where mining accident has occurred. Kamelion has the rather unique problem of being overly empathetic when strong emotions are stirred up. He bonds with a woman who has lost her husband and her son in this disaster and is consumed by the grief which causes all manner of disturbing reactions. It’s not a terrible story but I think I liked the follow-up a little better. I had some problems liking Tegan in this one because I sometimes found her a little more shrill than usual. She has this way to bristle at every perceived slight to women at this time where attitudes of that nature were common. One of the characters makes some assumption that she couldn’t be a doctor or something, and of course, Tegan has to make some retort without any consideration of the time period she is currently in for this story. Tegan has always been one of the more impulsively brash companions in Doctor Who history, but I sometimes wish she could be written to not always fly off the handle when she is in these settings. Perhaps there could be a more subtle or amusing way for her to note the chauvinism which seemed more prevalent in an earlier time period. It isn’t like we all don’t know that women didn’t get a fair shake particularly back then. I don’t think she is necessarily wrong, but I would have thought that she has seen enough through her travels with the Doctor to at least not quite sound so shocked or righteous when she encounters these moments which would have been much more common in that particular setting. I am also thinking that I am glad Kamelion wasn’t used so much in the television series. The whole show would have been in danger of just being about having to find him and deal with his inability to resist mind control or being swamped by intense emotion. I may be one of the few Big Finish listeners not overly enthused by Kamelion being explored as a character more.
“Power Game” by Eddie Robson is a much more engaging idea to me. It centers around a scavenger hunt type game show where the participants are not quite there voluntarily. Tegan finds herself competing in this thing with no clear memory she got there. The Doctor and Turlough, meanwhile are having to search for her and, you guessed it, Kamelion, who have mysteriously disappeared. Tegan is back to be much more tolerable in this one. This is where her stubbornness and indomitability become much more relevant and enjoyable to me. Robson also seems to bring out her resourcefulness in the character which is something I can appreciate about having Tegan around. I actually rather like Tegan for the most part, but I just had a hard time connecting with her in the first story of this release. Once again, it starts to appear that Kamelion is at the root of these problems in this story.
Kamelion keeps having to apologize in these recent stories, and I have to say that the Doctor’s reluctance to tackle this problem a bit more directly is a little annoying to me.
Once again, the casting and performances do still make this a reasonably enjoyable listen. The sound effects are still well executed. Davison still performs quite well. It’s hard to believe that he isn’t all that far from being seventy. He doesn’t sound quite the same as he did in the television series, but he seems to be holding up well enough to make his participation in these episodes enjoyable. Strickson is always a welcome return to the role of Turlough. I would like to hear more with just him and Fielding without a third companion. Their era on the television series was one of my favorite dynamics with the Fifth Doctor.
Anyway, I had a few gripes about this particular release, but it still was a long way from being bad. The basic settings were quite different from each other which was nice, but the same problem of Kamelion erratic reactions to emotional stimulus made me rather glad that technical issues kept him from being realized fully onscreen.