The third series of Fourth Doctor Adventures came to a close with the Nick Briggs tale Zygon Hunt. Before the re-appearance of these shape-changing creatures, Big Finish had used them to great effect in The Zygon Who Fell to Earth so how well do they work this time?
The synopsis is:
On the jungle planet Garros, Earth Forces Knight Commander-in-Chief Greg Saraton and his team are hunting gigantic beasts, for sport. When the Doctor and Leela arrive, they are caught up in a web of intrigue where there is no clear friend or foe.
What is Saraton’s vital connection with Earth’s Solar System’s Defence Shield? Why are the giant reptilian birds of Garros attacking? What terrible secret lurks deep within the trees?
Before the truth can be revealed, a heavy price will be extracted and loyalties will be tested to the limit.
The setting reminded me of the Solar System at the time of Sara Kingdom with the Defence Shield though I can’t pin the reasons down better than that. Zygon stories have a tendency to become Where’s the Zygon? in a Doctor Who version of Where’s Wally?. For the most part this story is presented as very bluff hunting coves (= baddies), nice planet of alien fauna / flora, Doctor and Leela being reasonable (= goodies) and a hanging threat of Zygons that the Earth folk don’t recognise.
It is once the identity of the inevitable hidden Zygon is revealed that this story comes to life and finds its own voice. I can’t comment without spoilers, though I will try.
The central tenet is that going deep undercover can make a Zygon go native and be forming relationships with humans and seeing a range of behaviour they then decide that their own people are wrong and Earth should not be cleared just for the Zygons; there are other worlds.
The story is one where the Doctor and companion are a gentle catalyst tipping the balance that was already on the cusp of a change.
All ends well of course and the relationship between Leela and the Doctor is also re-affirmed after some wobbles early in the series.
I thought Nick Brigg’s style of writing was different from other of his stories. He dealt with emotions and relationships with a gentle touch rather different from some of his more action led stories.
The set-up and early actions of the Doctor and Leela may be predictable but I enjoyed this story and it is one I can imagine listening to again.
The supporting cast, as ever, need a mention with Michael Maloney and Gillian Kearney both excellent.