(ISBN 1-84435-025-8)





 A thousand years

 ago, the evil Cult

 of the Dark Flame

 infiltrated every

 star system in the

 galaxy.  the Cult is 

 NOW legendary, its

 despotic leader a

 terrible memory.


 But for some the Dark

 Flame still burns. For

 some, its horrifying

 power is the ultimate

 goal AND All that is

 required is for the

 right people to be in

 the wrong place and



 An archaeologist and

 his robot are on the

 poisonous world of

 Sorus Alpha, where

 they will uncover a

 hideous relic. The 

 Doctor and Ace are

 on their way to the

 deep space research

 centre Orbos, where

 Professor Bernice

 Summerfield is soon

 to start the count-

 down to universal



 Four acolytes of Evil.


 Three mad scientists.


 Two companions.




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The Dark Flame

MARCH 2003







Trevor Baxendale never wrote for Virgin’s series of New Adventures, yet oddly

his Virgin-era play, The Dark Flame, feels more like a New Adventure than Paul Cornell’s The Shadow of the Scourge did, and Cornell was one of their most prolific writers!


A lot of this is down to tone, not just in the writing of the script but in how Big Finish have produced, packaged and sold it. The whole feel of The Dark Flame is, as the title implies, dark. The grim setting, the plot about the evil cult, the actors’ wonderful performances, and the score all evoke the grim atmosphere of many of the New Adventures. Even the superb cover illustration from Lee Binding (one of Big Finish’s best to date, I reckon) depicts the

mid-Virgin era Doctor surrounded by hellfire, brimstone and the blackness of space. In fact, the superlative artwork is just about the only aspect of The Dark Flame that doesn’t evoke memories of the hideously-bound Virgin novels!


Furthermore, The Dark Flame is more faithful to the characters of the Doctor, ‘New’ Ace

and Benny than The Shadow of the Scourge was. The Doctor and Benny are particularly impressive once again; each of them sounding exactly as I imagined that they would. Lisa Bowerman is wonderful to listen to, and in this play she is given some classic Benny one-liners. Sophie Aldred is much more convincing here than she was in the trio’s last outing – here Ace sounds genuinely older and tougher. There is an especially impressive sequence where Benny, whilst under the controlling influence of Remnex, attacks Ace (who is bound). Afterwards it takes a lot of effort on the part of the Doctor to convince Ace not to tear Benny apart – much more in keeping with the ‘New’ Ace that I remember!


But unfortunately, despite solid

performances from the regulars, The Dark Flame isn’t actually a

very good story… at all. It’s no more than a traditional / knock-

down / runabout / space station

/ quarry four-parter that pales in

comparison to Cornell's earlier

and much more thought-provoking

effort. Whilst the feel of play may be very New Adventures, there is certainly nothing here that is “too broad and too deep for the small screen”, which is a huge shame because Big Finish don’t have the same ceilings that the television series did; the audio medium allows them to go anywhere and do anything… and so Baxendale takes us to Space Station Orbos and the dead world Marran Alpha.


The resolution of the play is even worse than the main thrust of the plot; a complete and utter cop-out. Fortunately, The Dark Flame is redeemed in part by the compelling performances of Steven Wickham as the entertaining robot, Joseph, and especially Michael Praed as the over-the-top villain, Slyde – he’s deplorable from the minute that you meet him and you can’t stop hating him right until the end. Slyde is the antithesis, really, of Praed’s definitive Robin Hood.


Ultimately the kindest phrase that I could use to describe The Dark Flame is ‘the play that Nekromanteia should have been’. If I were Big Finish, I would have put the seventh Doctor, Ace and Benny in Nekromanteia and the fifth Doctor, Peri and Erimem in The Dark Flame. As things are, I wouldn’t recommend The Dark Flame to anyone but the most forgiving New Adventures fanatics, but I will say one thing for it – it has fantastic dialogue: “she has given herself to the Dark Side. You know this to be true.” It’s just a pity Baxendale that didnt write the best bits of it!


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006


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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