Review: Doctor Who The Fourth Doctor Adventures – Trail of the White Worm

trailofthewhitewormcover_cover_largeBlurb: The legend dates back to Roman times, at least: a great White Worm, as wide as a man, slithers out of the rocks of the Dark Peak Gap to take animals, sometimes even children, for its food.

When the Doctor and Leela arrive in the wilds of Derbyshire, only to get caught up in the hunt for a missing girl, they soon discover that the legend of the Worm is very much alive – even now, in 1979.

Worse still, it seems that the Doctor isn’t the only renegade Time Lord on the trail of this deadly and mysterious Worm…

Review: Trail of the White Worm is the penultimate story in the first season of The Fourth Doctor Adventures. Billed as the triumphant return of the Master, this story does succeed in one thing: Geoffrey Beevers returns to the role that he played in 1981’s Keeper of Traken. As the only surviving actor to have played the Master in the classic series, Beevers holds a unique place in Doctor Who cannon. With Tom Baker’s Doctor available it only made sense to pit these two against each other, and giving the first season of the Fourth Doctor Adventures a real send off by having it finish with two Master stories. Beevers returns to the role as if he never left. His performance has been aptly described as velvety evil. Menace oozes from Beevers’ performance as he seems to lovingly caress each word as he utters it.

Unfortunately, Beevers’ Master is very much downplayed in this story, only the first of several disappointments with the story. The story feels as if it is a filler designed to bide time before the final two episodes come out in the following week. The central mystery revolves around where the White Worm is hiding but this is given away in the first five minutes to anyone paying attention to the story. The locals feel as if they’re extras out of a western even though it’s both the wrong time and place. The character of Colonel Spindleton is way too absurd and over-the-top. His role in the story means that he should convey some menace but he’s played as such a buffoon that he never really conveys a sense of danger. Sadly, the confrontation between the Doctor and the Master is just relegated to a few minutes at the end of the story. Like most of the stories this season, Trail of the White Worm would have benefited greatly from having four episodes but the time constraints and the knowledge that they’d have the Master available for the next story means that he was squandered in his appearance here.

Overall the production values remain high for the series. Tom Baker and Louise Jameson struggle with some of the dialogue that they’re given, but they do their best to elevate it to a higher level. The guest cast is pretty forgettable for the most part. However Michael Cochrane is very memorable as Colonel Spindleton despite also being given awkward dialogue. Rachael Stirling, Diana Rigg’s daughter, guest stars as Desmene Furze. She gives a competent performance for the most part but a few scenes require her to really stretch her performance and she pulls those off admirably. As always the sound design is great and the music was good if not evocative of the era.

Recommendation: After decades of waiting for the fourth Doctor and Leela to encounter the Master the story almost completely fails to deliver on the promise. There are several fun vignettes but what plot there is only exists to link the story to the next installment. Because of the links I recommend this one only if you’re going to try the next story, The Oseidon Adventure.

5/10

2012

Audio Drama

Big Finish Productions

Directed by Ken Bentley

Produced by David Richardson

Written by Alan Barnes

Runtime Approx 60 min.

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