September 2019 gave us a David Llewellyn main range story for the Fifth Doctor, Tartarus. It’s interesting for two reasons (at least): the appearance of Samuel Barnett as Cicero, making this a Big Finish crossover; the introduction of Marc (George Watkins) as a new companion! Even with all that to look forward to I found it largely disappointing. I’ll explain…
The first part I found particularly vexing. Tegan had little to do, Nyssa had conveniently swallowed a guide to Roman history so dropped lots of exposition. There was much missing of Adric, but the Fifth Doctor had other thoughts – why not go all fan boy over Cicero?
Cue some nonsense at a party in Cicero’s house allowing Tegan to get angry about slavery (channeled through Marc) and the Doctor to break many laws of time as he tries to impress Cicero with his knowledge of physics.
Meanwhile the gods grew bored and sent lights in the sky to attack the villa and in the end steal the part with the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan, Cicero and Marc as well as a bodyguard.
The next two part work well by contrast. It’s a cybernetic take on the film Jason and the Argonauts as Tegan (I think it is) usefully explains. Cue a range of encounters with harpies and a giant statue.
The group are facing a series of tests with clues and robot dangers before working their way to the centre of the artificial world they find themselves. There’s a sentience, Tartarus (Tracy-Ann Oberman) and a big ending.
By now the emphasis has moved away from Cicero and instead the puzzles all seem to revolve around Marc. No surprise when we learn he has passed the overall test and we get a quick twist around an alien war, dead civilisations and sentient computers.
It all ends with Marc being liberated to travel in the TARDIS and Cicero thinking it all a dream.
There’s then a few more minutes added for the Doctor to come back, ask Cicero to keep quiet and tell him (and us) Marc won’t survive his travels.
An odd ending to what I found to be a curiously constructed tale.
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