It’s a new year and a new era for the Fourth Doctor as we get the first of two boxsets in The Syndicate Master Plan. If that weren’t excitement enough, there’s a brand new companion. WPC Ann Kelso played by Jane Slavin. And who better to introduce a WPC to the TARDIS than former policeman Andrew Smith?
It’s 1978, and something is happening on twentieth century Earth in The Sinestran Kill.
The Sinestran Kill
Not only do we get a new companion and story arc, but we also get a range of new villains and an appearance by Frank Skinner as DCI Scott Neilson. The story starts off with gangland hitmen, then as alien interference becomes clearer, we get a whole set of criminals, aliens, conspiracies and even New Scotland Yard. As ever the arrival of a new companion is unheralded, giving us plenty of time (as listeners we already now Ann Kelso will end up travelling in the TARDIS) to get to know her character. She’s determined, flexible, bright and suitably startled by revelations the world is not what she thought. Undaunted she alters her perspective and gets on with the matter at hand: protecting Tony Reynolds from imminent murder by the Blake gang.
The whole cast is excellent, from Glynis Barber (Kathy Blake) to Leon Williams (Reynolds). There are surprises, some base under siege and enough of Tom’s trademark humour to help lift an otherwise potentially dark story. It captures the sense of the late 1970s without going overboard, and if there’s perhaps too much in the way of police acronyms, they are quickly explained without slowing down the story. Apart from Ann Kelso, DCI Neilson is also a well realised character, and I’d be happy to have more of him in this series, or beyond (I’m already trying to figure out if he could meet DI Menzies!)
It’s a very good introduction to a new season (second boxset next month) and there are three further stories to come. Roll on the next episode, Planet of the Drashigs.