Night of the Stormcrow (Credit: Big Finish / Alex Mallinson)
Night of the Stormcrow Big Finish
First Released: Tuesday 31st December 2013!

One of the benefits of a Big Finish main range subscription, is, of course, the short trips subscriber bonuses. Special one off short trips, only available to those whose subscriptions include particular releases. Back in the day, however, these were a somewhat grander affair with bonus full-cast dramas offered to those who took a six or twelve story subscription. These were often somewhat…gimmicky, with titles such as Return to the Web Planet, Trial of the Valeyard and The Four Doctors. When in 2012, after many long years Tom Baker finally joined the Big Finish family, no gimmick was required and the next subscriber special released was simply an extra adventure for the Fourth Doctor, Night of the Stormcrow. Fortunately, it would take only a year before this story was available for general sale and that really is something of a blessing as Night, turned out to be one of the best releases featuring the Fourth Doctor thus far…

The Fourth Doctor Adventures certainly have proven to be one of the more controversial ranges put out by Big Finish. Easily their most nostalgia-heavy range, I must confess to being one of their detractors. Like many people, Tom is one of my favourite Doctors and so when the range was announced I was ecstatic, only to be left bitterly disappointed. It’s a feeling that has gradually lessened as the series has matured but Series 1, however, is still in my mind one of the weakest BF runs. Wrath of the Iceni is superb but the rest of the series was incredibly fan pleasing, often at the expense of good stories, something the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era never was. More distressing was the lack of anything ‘spooky’, given the strong links between gothic horror and the era when these stories were supposed to be set.

Night of the Stormcrow changes this and provides a wonderful hour of evocative and genuinely creepy ‘cosmic’ horror that feels nostalgic to nothing, other than the cultural memory of ‘hiding behind the sofa’. Scripted by easily one of the greatest gifts to Doctor Who fandom, Marc Platt, the story is a wonderfully dark base under-siege scenario. The plot concerns the personnel of an observatory under attack from the mysterious ‘Stormcrow’ and the ‘No-Things’ that follow in its wake. When the Doctor and Leela arrive, the group soon becomes trapped as Stormcrow devours all around it…

I’ll praise Marc Platt to the end of the world and it’s very rare that I dislike any of his work. His incredible imagination is really on display here, giving us enough information about Stormcrow to make it genuinely frightening and disturbing but keeping it mysterious enough so that we aren’t comforted by any of the answers. The script is full of a number of genuinely shocking reveals, keeping the listener on the edge of the seat as a character reacts to a situation without actually revealing what it is he or she is reacting too. When the reveal is made, it’s shocking and creepy- helped by a wonderful soundscape from Jamie Robertson. In the behind the scenes feature Nick Briggs reveals that he actually had to get Platt to make the script a little more obvious. It’s a shame as I for one would love to hear what a more mysterious and opaque version of this story would have sounded like!

Night, gives Tom the chance to play the darker, more alien Fourth Doctor and here it works beautifully, ramping up the tension and assisting in delivering some spine-tingling moments. Louise Jameson really gets to shine as Leela in this story, at one point becoming convinced that she has lost the Doctor and reflecting on her situation since she left the Sevateem. The guest cast is superb, the entire piece oozing immense paranoia, with no character at all trustworthy.  To get a guest cast this good was integral to the piece working as a whole and is doubtless one of the reasons for its success. Ann Bell provides an entertaining turn as the obsessive Professor Gesima Cazalat, at points appearing endeared to the Doctor and at others seeming undeniably sinister. Peggy Brooks, Trevor Gale and Erica MacMillan all excel in their roles and it’s easily one of the strongest guest casts that Tom and Louise have worked with this far.

Night of the Stormcrow feels like what the fourth doctor adventures should be and fortunately more ‘gothic horror’ based releases have found themselves filtering into the range since with The Crooked Man, White Ghosts and The Haunting of Malkin Place all providing good examples

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