Nick Briggs wrote, directed and appeared in The Nowhere Place a Sixth Doctor and Evelyn tale. If nothing else the cover immediately adds it to The Great Big Finish Train Mystery and the title adds to the ambience of sinister goings on but what else is this story about?
The synopsis (from the product page on the Big Finish site) gives us two strands to focus our attention upon:
2197. The fighter-carrier Valiant has just crossed Pluto’s orbital path. Its captain is expecting trouble from alien raiders. She is not expecting the Doctor and Evelyn.
She does not believe members of her crew when they say they can hear an ancient bell ringing. A bell that strikes terror into their hearts.
1952. The Turret Class locomotive Ivy Lee is hurtling through the night. On board, there should only be two passengers: both of them carrying documents from the War Office.
But now, there are also two unexpected visitors on the train. One is the guard with ill-fitting trousers, the other is an excessively dotty old lady.
The Doctor and Evelyn have arrived and ‘Time’s End’ is approaching.
The story starts with the Doctor in panic and hearing a mysterious bell. This leads him and Evelyn to the fighter-carrier Valiant which is occupied in defending Earth from attack. What Captain Oswin (if only she were called Oswin Oswald!) doesn’t need is crew members hearing strange bells or a mysterious ancient door leading to nowhere through which many of her crew seem intent on going. She also doesn’t need two mysterious civilians appearing with a battered blue box who want to help.
The first two parts are all about trust, space battles, ancient mysteries and sinister events. The tension builds well before the Doctor and Evelyn manage to convince Oswin to allow them back to 1952.
The third part is set on a train on which Trevor Ridgely (Briggs) is travelling to a secret government base. In his briefcase he also has his doodles – sketches of spaceships and star drives! Alongside this is a curious train guard who tries to understand why Evelyn would want to steal Ridgely’s papers.
The final part is set back on the Valiant and has the Doctor face up to the dark secret of the ancient race who dwell at the End of Time and are intent on stopping the human race leaving the solar system. The ending is grim but appropriate leaving the Doctor emotionally drained.
[pullquote]there is an even better story hidden here[/pullquote]
At heart this is a strong story that goes in some unexpected directions and as others have said reminiscent of Nick’s more experimental writing. Although I enjoyed this I do think there is an even better story hidden here and I would like to have heard the initial scene setting done in one part, have part two be the train sequence, part 3 another diversion in time and finally come back to the Valiant for part 4.
The production / acting / directing are all top-notch (as they generally are) and a special mention to the character of Captain Oswin who never quite trusts the Doctor and is portrayed with real anger and intensity by Martha Cope. Sadly at this stage (this is #84 released there were no CD Extras as I would like to have heard about the making of this story.
A good story then and one that is near to classic.