01/08/2012. Contributed by Sue Davies
pub: Big Finish. 1 CD 60 minute story. Price: CD: £10.99 (UK), Download: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-616-4) cast: Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, Geoffrey Beevers, Michael Cochrane, Rachael Stirling, John Banks and Mark Field.
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In the continuing adventures of the Fourth Doctor at Big Finish, 'The Trail Of The White Worm' slithers into the 1970s.
As the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Leela (Louise Jameson) arrive in the wilds of Derbyshire, they find a missing person, a trail of slime and big boys' toys knocking seven bells out of the countryside.
With a legend that stretches back to Roman times of a giant white worm that eats people and livestock, the locals have been spooked by the disappearance of a local teen-ager. Once again, the legend rears its head as they think the girl may have been eaten by the worm living in the Dark Peak Gap.
Worse than a massive worm, the Doctor is about to meet his nemesis and old sparring partner, The Master, and Leela encounters the ever so slightly nuts Colonel Spindleton who is keen to show off all of his armoury. He should know better than match mere fire power with the warrior woman.
Nicely overblown, this story has its share of weird characters, false trails and a cliff-hanger ending for the next part. It is great fun as Tom Baker relishes his part in all this madness. His witty banter with Leela continues to entertain whilst chaos reigns.
Writer Alan Barnes adds his own atmosphere of the 70s, Leela is referred to as Pan's People by the locals ('Top Of The Pops', look it up, young people) and a sense of the ridiculous. I'm also concerned he's added his memories of Margaret Thatcher, leader of the Conservatives who became Prime Minister in 1979 but I might be reading too much into the character of Demesne Furze.
With Geoffrey Beevers as the oily old Master and the splendid Michael Cochrane as Spindleton, this rapidly turns into a romp. Add the vocals of Rachel Stirling (soon to star with her mother, Diana Rigg, and the Eleventh Doctor in series seven) as the forthright Demesne Furze and you have a combination of talent rarely heard in the same room.
Altogether quite a treat, though the character of the Master increasingly loses his malevolence and becomes a pantomime villain, although perhaps my memories of the 1970s fail to take into account that with his moustache twirling he was just that.
'Trail Of The White Worm' neatly segues into 'The Oseidon Adventure' which might be a little upsetting if you dip into it as a one-off. The character interplay and the big reveals are thick and fast with subsidiary characters backing up the plot well. Like any good two-parter, 'Trail Of The White Worm' leaves you wanting more and a little breathless teetering on the abyss, ready to plunge into the next adventure.
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