(ISBN 1-84435-134-3)





 the city of Nicaea, the

 first great Church

 council, called by the

 Roman Emperor

 Constantine, is due to

 begin. Here theology,

 philosophy and

 politics will be

 brought together for

 millennia to come.


 The Doctor, Peri and

 Erimem are there

 simply to watch

 events unfold. Gaps

 remain in the history

 books, and the Doctor

 has come to satisfy

 his curiosity.


 But none of them are

 ready for what

 greets them in Nicaea.

 Intrigue within the

 Imperial Palace has

 become violence on

 the streets. Mobs

 roam the alleyways

 and blood is spilt in

 the name of faith.

 Even in the face of

 murder and injustice

 though, the time

 travellers must

 force themselves to

 stay aloof. This is

 history, after all.


 Yet what is history

 to one person is the

 future to another.


 Is it possible for

 history to be

 rewritten? And if it

 can, can the Doctor

 afford to let it?


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The Council

of Nicaea

JULY 2005







It is a shame that Big Finish have taken so much stick this year for their output, though I suppose its inevitable in the wake of the new series. With the exception of the rather dull “Dreamtime”, I have thoroughly enjoyed every single story this year including this superb historical adventure, “The Council of Nicaea.”


I am sure that in my previous reviews I have mentioned that my knowledge of pre-twentieth century is patchy at best; in fact most of it comes from Doctor Who! It is not that long since I gave a presentation to a room full of PGCE students on the Aztecs that was written almost entirely from watching “The Aztecs” on DVD! Suffice it to say I knew nothing about Nicaea prior to listening to this story (except that it is a planet mentioned in the New Adventure “The Pit” – that threw me a bit!) and after listening to four entertaining episodes penned by Paul Cornell’s better half, Oxford post-graduate student Caroline Symcox, I now consider myself educated, just as I am sure many children did after watching “The Aztecs” in 1964. And at heart, that is exactly what “The Council of Nicaea” is; a twenty-first century remake of the classic William Hartnell serial. The time and the place and the characters are all different,

but the story is the same. The TARDIS lands in the past. One of the Doctor’s companions wants to change events which will shape the future of the world. He refuses to allow to her do so. She ignores him. She learns the hard way…


This story is a crucial one for the relationship between the Doctor, Peri and Erimem. So far, they have been through hell together, but unlike some other recent TARDIS teams these lot actually like each other and get on rather well. “The Council of Nicaea” really puts the strength of their fellowship to the test, but I think that at the story’s end the bond between the TARDIS crew is all the stronger for it. Caroline Morris is absolutely superb (again) here. Erimem is one of the most well-rounded companions the Doctor has ever had – she is

feisty, strong-spirited, intransigent and she has a certain nobility about her; a nobility that comes more from the strength of her convictions than her auspicious background. This story sees her butt heads with Doctor for the first time, and the clever way in which the script is written allows us to see Erimem’s point of view and maybe even side with her.


“Don’t we change history everywhere we go?”


I think it is fair to say that many of the people who subscribe to these Big Finish audio dramas are likely to be the sort to have seen all the (existing!) Doctor Who episodes, read all the books etc, but I still feel it is important every once in a while to be reminded of some

of the key Doctor Who issues. You cannot change established history. Symcox’s husband demonstrated this to the new audience splendidly with his fantastic television episode, “Father’s Day”, but here his wife addresses the issue more directly - she asks why. She

even has Peri ask why. After all, is all of time and space not ‘history’ to a TARDIS? I think the greatest strength of this play is Symcox succinct handling of both the emotional ramifications and the practical upshot of Erimem’s meddling.


The historical setting itself is recreated with Big Finish’s customary splendour. Symcox’s depiction of the time gives every character from the Emperor Constantine right down to the man on the street a voice, giving the listener a wonderful feel for the time as well as an epic sense of scope. It also helps highlight the differences between ‘then’ and ‘now’; the everyday fourth century man’s greater common interest in all the social, religious and political arguments of the day; the massive importance of the Arius vs Athanasius debate – these were the days before television, remember!


There really is not a bad performance to be found in this play, though apart from the regulars I would single out David Bamber (Constantine) as being particularly outstanding. Is he a tyrant, as Erimem is convinced? Is he just your usual run-of-the-mill fourth century leader, as the Doctor seems to believe?  His portrayal of the character as a powerful, ruthless and yet often reasonable man leaves the Doctor walking a very thin line throughout the play which makes for some brilliant drama (and some excellent cliffhangers to boot!)


On balance, “The Council of Nicaea” is a great story that does not shy away from the horrors of history or the perils of time travel, and although many of us have our attention firmly fixed on the year 200,100 and the last great battle of the Time War, there is something to be said for a quiet, character-driven story about religious intolerance and injustice.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006


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