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Aquitaine (Credit: Big Finish)

Written by Simon Barnard and Paul Morris
Directed by Ken Bentley

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Matthew Cottle (Hargreaves), Harry Myers (Dr Sergei Akunin), Nina Sosanya (Captain Anna Maynard), Gerald Kyd (Lt Maurizio Savinio),
Danusia Samal (Lt Freya Jennings)

Big Finish Productions – Released February 2016
Purchase from Amazon UK

When the title of this release was first announced it might’ve been assumed that this release was referring to the Duchy of Aquitaine once ruled over by Henry II’s famous Queen Eleanor. Alas, the idea of a historical cross-over between Doctor Who and The Lion in Winter will have to wait for another day as the title of this story refers to a space ship called HMS Aquitaine. The story opens with the ship’s artificial intelligence Hargreaves left look after things on his own in a scene which put this reviewer in mind of the Red Dwarf episode ‘Kryten’. Further similarities between the Aquitaine and the small rouge one follow as after responding to Hargreaves’ distress signal the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan learn that the ship is in the vicinity of a black hole. Any listeners with a smattering of sci-fi knowledge will soon realise that the ‘ghosts’ which start appearing are a result of the black hole causing temporal disturbance which surprisingly seems to take the Doctor a long time to work out. However, the eventual explanation for what is really going on and the gradual re-introduction of the missing crew characters leads to worthwhile developments in the story particularly during the second half of the play.

Of the supporting cast, particular mention must go to Matthew Cottle who is kept extremely busy throughout the play as the voice of the AI which controls the ship and the various service robots. His performance is constantly charming throughout and a joy to listen to. It is also a joy to hear Nina Sosanya as Captain Maynard, a role which seems much more rewarding than her TV appearance as Trish in the 2006 TV episode Fear Her. A final mention should go to Big Finish regular Harry Myers, whose Russian accent renders him almost unrecognisable, giving an enjoyable performance as Dr Akunin.

Even though the plot necessitates that the Doctor become separated from his companions the camaraderie between Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, and Janet Fielding still shines through as strongly as ever. It is also to recommended that this story is very much a standalone from previous adventures and sits comfortably within the TV canon of season 20. This stands in direct opposition to the previous releases featuring Tegan, Turlough and the older Nyssa which were much more reliant on the continuity of previous releases and as such not as accessible to new listeners.

Overall, this story’s enjoyment is largely to be found in its simplicity as it stands neatly on its own. Whilst not being the most entirely original or memorable play ever to emerge from the Big Finish stables, this is still a worthwhile addition to the audio canon. On this form, it can only be hoped that the trio of the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan will go on to have many more such adventures.

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