Strangely enough, this is the story that got me hooked on BF, so I still have a soft spot for it. I’m glad I heard it before I discovered how much better Big Finish and Team Nerd (Five & Nyssa) can be.
Have a trailer:
I’m afraid this is one case where you can safely judge a book by its cover.
Why did I choose to purchase Winter for the Adept as my trial audio, before I knew anything about Big Finish Doctor Who? Nyssa was one of my favorite companions, and I also like Peter Jurasik, thanks to his outstanding portrayal of Londo in Babylon 5. (He wasn’t as good in this.) I didn’t yet know of India Fisher. Her performance here is presumably what led to her later casting as Charley, a very similar character. Five is his inquisitive Season 19 self, puttering and polite and playing with gadgets, no doubt wearing his brainy specs. Unfortunately, Andrew Cartmell decided to write Nyssa as a surrogate Tegan with a double helping of petulance. This is about the best you’ll get from her:
“Where’s your spirit of adventure?”
“Somewhere out on the mountain slopes, expiring from hypothermia.” — Five & Nyssa
So. After a teleportation accident sends Nyssa to Earth and drops her in a waist-deep snowbank (of course), the Doctor tracks her down and gets caught up investigating a poltergeist at a posh girls’ boarding school in the Swiss Alps. They are aided and hindered by two headstrong girls (Peril played by India Fisher), the rabidly devout schoolmistress who decides the Doctor is Satan, a kindly French teacher, and a Swiss police officer on skis who’s showed up to help just as the place gets snowed in.
The story has its charms, but it also has some of the pitfalls of audio plays and classic Who in general, including bad cliffhanger screams, improbable pseudoscience, flat acting, and a threat to all of Earth with a peculiarly risible name. It might be worth the discounted download price of the Main Range’s first 50, but it’s not the first audio you should hear.
But if you own it, once again, Simon Hodges’ custom cover will spruce it up in your iTunes library (File > Get Info to add artwork).
This audio makes explicit what was previously only hinted at in Time Flight and Land of the Dead: Nyssa is psychically gifted. She’s a true telepath, but she’s sensitive enough to pick up on some psychic phenomena, and the’s also vulnerable to their influence. It adds a fun (if clichéd) twist to her character that will come into play in several future audios.
I know that Doctor Who has invoked various supernatural tropes over the years, but nearly always, “supernatural” turned out to be “alien phenomenon with a (sometimes flimsy) scientific explanation.” I balk at Andrew Cartmell straight up introducing a real, honest-to-gosh ghost. At the same time, he hedges his bets: there’s paranormal spirits and aliens. The conga line of psychics is a ridiculous chain of coincidences, and blaming it on an alien recruitment officer isn’t much help when the alien plot itself is so contrived. I suppose it’s no sillier than trying to take over the world with aggressive furniture and killer plastic daffodils.
I’m also not entirely sold on a cast of female characters who spend a lot of time kissing, cooking, praying and screaming, but I have to tip my hat to Cartmell for having a varied cast of female characters, still rare on DW to this day. Also, I appreciate what Cartmell was trying to do with Miss Allison with the prologue and epilogue. She speaks for many of us who aren’t cut out to be companions, but would still love a ride in the TARDIS.
Finally, despite my doubts about ghosts in Doctor Who, I like the character of Harding. He’s quite endearing, a sort of polite, youthful John Cleese.
Big Finish: “This story takes place between the television adventures, Time-Flight and Arc of Infinity, and after the Big Finish audio adventure The Land of the Dead.”
It’s the second Nyssa and Fifth Doctor audio in “Season 19b” (all the audios set between TV season 19 and 20). Production Code 6C/B. The next Nyssa & Five audio is The Mutant Phase. Unlike Evelyn, it took Nyssa a while to get some really good scripts!