Main range release 223 is Zaltys, a good Fifth Doctor story from Matthew J Elliott. Released in March 2017, the TARDIS crew of Nyssa, Adric and Tegan find themselves badly in need of friends on the planet of the dead. The story marks the end of this the first main range trilogy with Adric, and it will no doubt not be the last.
There are clues in the synopsis from the product page, but some of them are more obvious in hindsight:
In the Vortex, the TARDIS comes under a form of psychic attack – resulting in the abductions of first Adric, then Tegan. Following their trail, the Doctor and Nyssa arrive under the lurid skies of the planet Zaltys, whose entire population has vanished in strange circumstances. Soon, they discover that Zaltys is now the target of treasure seekers, come to scavenge this so-called Planet of the Dead…
Meanwhile, deep below the planet’s surface, Adric learns the earth-shattering reason why the people of Zaltys disappeared… and why they were wise to do so. And Tegan is, quite literally, in the dark – enduring interrogation by the mysterious Clarimonde. Any friend of the Doctor’s is Clarimonde’s enemy… because theirs is a blood feud!
From the start the plot splits up the companions and sets up the psychic context driving much of the story. They encounter Sable (Rebecca Root) whose moral compass is somewhat lacking and is out for what she can get, regardless of who suffers to make it happen. While Tegan and Adric deal with surviving, the Doctor and Nyssa slowly piece together the story of why the inhabitants of Zaltys have vanished, and are wrongfooted on more than one occasion as they get to know Perrault and Gavaudan.
Even with some heavy signalling right at the start, Matthew J Elliott keeps enough elements in play to make the route to the story’s resolution an interesting one. Rebecca Root’s Sable is cold and has less humanity than the real villains of the piece (Clarimonde’s people) who are driven by primal emotions. Niamh Cusack makes a sinister Clarimonde, and Sean Barrett’s Perrault has great depth of character as does Philip Franks’s Gevaudan.
The TARDIS crew does feel busy, and the pairing of Adric and Tegan are more than enough to drive most of the story to its conclusion. Janet Fielding (as I have said before) grows with each story and Tegan does a more than passable Bruce Willis impression as the action unfolds.
It’s a great story and will bear relistening.