THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE BIG
BIG FINISH CD#113
A curse on this
damned reef - and
curse the Doctor who
brought us here!
Drawn by the siren
call of a distress
beacon, the TARDIS
crash-lands on an
uncharted time reef.
However, the Doctor,
Nyssa and Brewster
are not the only
on this barren rock.
and his crew of
returning war heroes
have been similarly
shipwrecked, as has
the beautiful but
But there's something
else here, too. A thing
of darkness which
across the surface of
the reef hunting for
prey: the Ruhk.
“Time Reef” is a peculiar one. And, coming as it does from the pen of Marc Platt, I would have been distinctly disappointed had it been otherwise.
Aided and abetted by Grant Kempster’s dramatic cover illustration and booklet centrefold, this play resurrected vivid images in my mind from old stories as diverse as “Enlightenment” and “Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible.” The ‘sailing ships in space’ of the former work particularly well here, more so than ever given that they have run aground on the reef.
“My TARDIS is dead!”
And, just as it was in “Cat’s Cradle: Time’s Crucible”, the old chestnut of the TARDIS apparently being destroyed is employed by Platt here to interesting effect. As this story begins, the fifth Doctor is aberrantly grouchy – after all, he has just been marooned on Earth for five months – but at least he has got his TARDIS back…
And then he realises that Brewster was off gallivanting in his TARDIS for more than just the “blink of the old peepers” that he claimed…
And then he realises that everything is not where it should be, critical components included…
And then the TARDIS’ interior dimensions implode.
Accordingly Peter Davison plays his Doctor quite off-kilter in this one. For once, the actor sounds his age, especially in his incensed Hartnell-esque scenes. Brewster’s mischief certainly brings out the grumpy old man in even the most affable of Doctors.
“Back journey number one!”
Had they had the mind to, Big Finish could have eked out a whole season’s worth of stories based on the format of the Doctor and Nyssa having to go back and fix all the mistakes that Brewster made in his earlier TARDIS travels. However, had they chosen to do so, I doubt that they could have had as much fun with the notion as Platt does in “Time Reef”. Before I listened to the play, I noted from the cover illustration that Brewster was wearing the Doctor’s clothes, but even so I did not make the link to Brewster having impersonated the Doctor previously. And so when the TARDIS returns Brewster to the time reef, the Doctor is initially forced to play the part of ‘Blondie’ - the companion to ‘Doctor Brewster’!
“It sings the place alive. Sings the blinding dark.”
However, “Time Reef” is as murky in some places as it is humorous in others. The prevailing theme of the story is desolation, and characters such as Beth Chalmers’ Vuyoki – the ancient murderess in a jar – and Sean Biggerstaff’s Ruhk - “a cross between a broken umbrella and a bird” – really help to give this play a deliciously horrid flavour.
The above notwithstanding, some aspects of this play did not really work for me. As much
as I loved the first episode, I found the second to be rather slow, although to be fair this was made up for to some extent as the third episode was so epic (and I do mean epic in the classical sense of the word – the Greek inspiration for this piece is even more prevalent
than the Egyptian influence was in “The Skull of Sobek”).
On a final note, I was delighted that again we got to hear from the writers in the CD Extras. In the case of “Time Reef”, this was particularly vital as I certainly would not have managed to fully get my head around the Ruhk without Platt’s clarification! It is like "Ghost Light" all over again...
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