I never get tired of Eye of the Scorpion. It’s an ideal starter story to get someone hooked on Doctor Who. It’s not an epic or masterpiece like Spare Parts, it’s not a pivotal “things get real” story like Earthshock, and it’s not a key to the Whoniverse like Genesis of the Daleks. It’s just a solid, fun adventure with a little of almost every element there is to love in classic Who. I mean, what doesn’t it have?
It’s a historical. The Doctor’s hobnobbing with royalty. There’s Peri puns and pop culture references. There’s good action sequences, and heck, there’s even real military tactics. The guest characters are compelling and capable: I could listen to Antranak’s voice all day, and Caroline Morris anchors this story as Erimem (if she weren’t charismatic, the whole audio would collapse). The Doctor uses wits and a glib tongue and the regional equivalent of a kettle and a ball of string to solve problems. Peri is sharp and effective and gets her own mini-adventure and some bonding time with Erimem to establish their friendship. There’s touching Peri-Doctor moments, too. The historical details are really quite good, despite some funny business with the sphinx. Little details like shaved heads with wigs add to the authenticity. The music and sound effects are excellent. First acted PoC companion (I can’t speak to comics and books)! And there’s cats.
Okay, the main villain is a bit flat, but even he has his secrets. Nor is he the sole cause of problems. I like the fact that much of the conflict in this story stems ultimately from human foibles, prejudices and politics rather than an Evil Power.
“Who are you to speak to Horemshep, priest of Horus, leader of the Council?!”
“I’m someone seeking the truth. Who are you?“
Peter Davison seems unusually fired up in this audio. Sometimes, he wanders into the studio without having read the script and improvises, relying on his acting experience and his familiarity with the role to carry him along. This time, he’s got his Androzani game face on. Not to be outdone, there’s a scene near the end in which Nicola Bryant is phenomenal. Meanwhile, Caroline Morris and Peter Davison engage in rapid-fire back-and-forth banter like they’ve worked together for years.
Really, the only knock on this story is that it’s not a TV episode. The settings and costumes for this period would have been wonderful to see.
This is the third time I’ve listened to The Eye of the Scorpion, and once again, I can’t find a single thing to quibble about. No other Big Finish has proved so ironclad against my nitpicking.
The Doctor’s bouts of heroism and tactical brilliance in this story are a breath of fresh air after the recent audio adventures with one Doctor or another watching in helpless horror while a secondary character sacrifices themselves and saves the day. It was dramatic in Earthshock, but the “Doctor sometimes fails” trope has been beaten into the ground. I appreciate having one sory where he gets to be knight in beige armour. Come to think of it, that may explain Peter Davison’s apparent enthusiasm for this script.
I’m delighted wheneverf Nicola Bryant gets a chance to use her real voice. A pity it’s usually when she’s playing a villain! But that showdown at the end was fantastic. “Who are you?” “Who are you?” Turns out the Doctor’s “who are you?” flung back in Horemshep’s face right after he’d loudly introduced himself wasn’t a bit of sloppy scriptwriting; the Doctor knew there was an alien presence lurking about.
As someone who’s studied Egypt enough to be able to write Erimem’s name in hieroglyphs, I keep finding details showing Iain McLaughlin did his research. Ancient Egypt literature and even its mythology is chock-full of court dramas, and the political tensions between the well-funded priesthoods and pharaoh is absolutely historical. In fact, King Tut was installed as a puppet boy king on the throne not long after a mysterious female pharaoh died or was overthrown and almost all records of her erased. (The Doctor calls her “Smenkhare.” I thought she was called Smenkhare, too, but it turns out she’s probably a separate pharaoh.)
By the way, there’s a few books by McLaughlin featuring Erimem, since Doctor Who contributors are allowed to maintain copyright on the characters they’ve invented.
Production Code 6Q/B forks it off of Planet of Fire (that is, all the Five and Peri audios follow in sequence after Planet of Fire.) It’s supposed to follow the Peri & Five audio Red Dawn, but there’s a catch: another Peri-only audio, Exotron/Urban Myths was later jammed between Red Dawn and Eye of the Scorpion, as you can see from the Production Codes list.
At any rate, the important thing is, Big Finish started creating Peri and Five stories between Planet of Fire and Caves of Androzani, and almost immediately gave Peri and Five an audio companion, Erimem. This is the story that introduces Erimem! Erimem’s next story is The Church and the Crown.