Doctor Who Short Trips: The Second Oldest Question review

Like September before it, October 2019 brought another new writer to the Big Finish fold via the Short Trips range. Carrie Thompson wrote The Second Oldest Question, which Sarah Sutton narrates. As you’d expect it’s a Fifth Doctor and Nyssa story.

The Second Oldest Question

First the Big Finish summary:

The oldest question in the universe has haunted the Doctor ever since he left Gallifrey. A question that only a few know the answer to. A question that must never be answered.

This isn’t the story of that question. This is the story of the second oldest question. A question that has plagued humanity for millennia. A question which determines whether someone can live or die. A question that must be answered.

Set in mediaeval England, the Doctor and Nyssa are at a witchcraft trial. It’s all bizarre accusations of magic against poultry and nonsense at the start, then a realisation: it’s a shaggy dog story. There’s even a clue in the artwork, and when it arrives I did almost groan to myself. In case you don’t spot it, I won’t reveal. Once the Doctor deals with the first trial, the solution rather backfires (as seems obvious) and the second resolution is a little limp, but probably fits the story.

Carrie’s prose is evocative, though I did feel at times the vocabulary of the peasantry was a trifle unrealistic. I may be being picky. I also have to agree with Ian McArdell’s review on CultBox: The Second Oldest Question – Doctor Who Short Trips 9.10 audio review; the Doctor and Nyssa are entirely generic and this story could really have been almost any Doctor and companion.

It’s unfortunate as Sarah Sutton is wonderful here and for my money her recent work on Short Trips has been amongst her best. For a character I never warmed to in the 1980s this shows again how the material can make all the difference.

As to this story, it’s OK.

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