(ISBN 1-84435-473-3)





 The TARDIS arrives

 in alien woodlands,

 where a small group

 of humans hold tight

 against the Takers –

 strange creatures

 who come by night to

 spirit away members

 of their settlement.


 HOWEVER, if there’s

 one thing that the

 inhabitants of Purity

 Bay fear more than

 the Takers, it’s the

 disease spread by

 strangers... the Doctor,

 Tegan, Turlough and



 THE fanatical Sister

 Mertil IS A victims of

 terrible corruption –

 but not in the way

 SHE thinkS. Only the

 whispering forest

 knows the truth…




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The Whispering Forest








Stephen Cole must have thought that all his Christmases had come at once when Big Finish commissioned him to script the second story in their Season 20 reunion trilogy. Over the last thirteen years, Cole has written countless books and audio scripts for Doctor Who and its spin-offs, but never before has he been presented with the opportunity to write for his favourite TARDIS team. As a result, The Whispering Forest sounds as much like a love song as it does an audio drama; an ode to a youth spent rapt in front of midweek BBC One.


Like so very many of Cole’s contributions, The Whispering Forest is über-traditional. Whilst Cobwebs was a cracking, cutting-edge play, it was charged with reuniting the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough with Nyssa, and thus had an ‘event’ feel to it that instantly set it apart from most fifth Doctor serials. The Whispering Forest, conversely, is as representative of a fifth Doctor television four-parter as you could imagine. The performances of the cast, the redolent score and sound design, and even the pacing all conspire to evoke of a strong sense of the Peter Davison era.


© Big Finish Productions 2010. No copyright infringement is intended.

Im sure shell shout should she see Sister Seska...


Yet Cole still manages to make his story relevant to a 2010 listener, grounding it in neurotic noughties’ zeitgeist. As long as thereve been people theres been Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and variants thereof, but only recently has it become so recognised; so modish. I blame David Beckham and his neatly-arranged cans of pop. Accordingly, a society that has become pathologically obsessed with sanitation is perfect fodder for a modern Doctor Who story; particularly so, in fact, when the TARDIS is arriving straight from a disease research facility! I love how the script champions the filthy Doctor over the cleanly-cropped, leathery-skinned inhabitants of Purity Bay, Cole somehow managing to instil household items like soap and hair clippers with an unsettling dread as Tegan almost makes herself ill bleating about people who are “bald as coots, their skin red raw” from scrubbing so hard.


Admittedly Cole’s stimulating

premise doesn’t lead us any-

where exceptional, the plot

succumbing to blueprint as

the actions of the woefully

misunderstood Takers push

the inhabitants of Purity Bay

to the brink of disaster, just in

time for Davisons Doctor and

his confluence of companions

to step in to the breach and sort both sides out. However, the devil is in the details, not the broad stokes – it’s in “the Takers have taken Tegan”, “Im sure shell shout should she see Sister Seska” and all the rest of Cole’s innocuously tongue-twisting dialogue. It’s in Cole’s affectionate portrayal of the engorged TARDIS crew. Every caustic “take us to your cleaner.”


Furthermore, whilst the play’s supporting characters owe as much to classic literature and fairytale as they do to Kim and Aggie, the performances of the cast are so very persuasive that the listener can forgive the writer’s recycling of a few stock elements. The Prisoner star Hayley Atwell, who first impressed Big Finish listeners with her chilling turn in Blood of the Daleks, gives a suitably spirited performance as young Sister Seska, whilst Sue Wallace and Lennox Greaves (The Chimes of Midnight) are even more convincing as her wicked stepmother and under-heel father. You’d almost think that they were wed in real life.


© Big Finish Productions 2010. No copyright infringement is intended.

“Take us to your cleaner..”


Ultimately though, what really makes The Whispering Forest so enjoyable is Cole’s loving portrayal of the Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and Nyssa, and the timeless performances that his script prompts from Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Mark Strickson. The team’s tumultuous dynamic is explored every which way as old “red thatch” Turlough (what

a nickname!) finally gets to know Nyssa in one thread, whilst the Doctor is forced to listen to Tegan’s incessant grumbling in another, only for the twain to meet and then split again. We are even treated to a customary cliffhanger leading in to the trilogys final story, as the Mara takes hold of Tegan for a third, and presumably final, time…


Of the first three releases to boast this exceptional line-up of talent, The Whispering Forest is the one most evocative of their era. It may lack the spectacle and even the lush splendour of the releases either side of it, but it more than makes up for this with its charming charact-erisation and traditional thrills.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 

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