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Doctor Who: The Zygon Who Fell to Earth Review

by Joseph A. Morrison 4 months ago in tv
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A holiday in the Lake District turns sour for the Doctor and Lucie when they find out the Zygons are not far behind...

The CD cover for "The Zygon Who Fell to Earth", designed by Grant Kempster.

"The Zygon Who Fell to Earth" is probably one of the most deceptive Eighth Doctor Adventures Big Finish has ever released. Starting out as a light, comedic story about a Zygon abandoning his roots, this soon becomes a much darker story, one that has far-reaching effects on the adventures of the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller. And it remains to this day one of my favourites: I love the contrasting tones the story plays with, and its strong focus on the characters at the story's heart gives it a strong emotional hook that isn't too kitsch or cliched. This story also reintroduces a classic Doctor Who villain in a way that doesn't just re-tread their first appearance, and adds new aspects to them, without making them completely unrecognisable, as the Modern Series sometimes has a tendency to do with returning Classic Series foes.

A picture of Tom Baker as the Doctor, together with two Zygons, taken during recording of the 1975 story "Terror of the Zygons". This was the first appearance of the Zygons in Doctor Who.

Picking up on the thread left hanging at the end of "Horror of Glam Rock" regarding Aunty Pat, we pick up her story ten years later, where she's now running a guest house in the Lake District with her ex-rock star husband. However, Trevor has a dark secret - one that is coming back to haunt him... And the Doctor and Lucie may be just as much victims of the Zygon gambit as Pat and Trevor. This story does something incredibly clever that few Doctor Who stories can pull off successfully: it blends comedy and tragedy together in such a way that it feels completely natural. Often, the move between the two can seem a little forced, and can leave the listener with tonal whiplash (which can sometimes work, it just depends on the story). "The Zygon Who Fell to Earth", however, doesn't have any such divide, and, as such, it moves from being a light-hearted romp of a story to a darker, tragic piece almost seamlessly. The inevitability of events seems obvious in retrospect, but, as the story plays out, the listener is swept up in the emotion of the situation. Despite the early sections of this story being played for laughs, it doesn't undermine the threat of the Zygons: they have a plan, it makes sense, and they are menacing enough to kill anyone that gets in their way. The new series may have had a tendency to treat them as 'generic blobby monsters', but this is not a mistake replicated here. This is the same Zygon race as seen on screen in 1975, and it's a credit to writer Paul Magrs that he doesn't let the jokes undermine the Zygons or diminish their threat. While you don't have the strong visuals on audio that defined the Zygons on TV, their whispering voices are still an intimidating presence, and the Skarasen comes off a lot better on audio than on screen. While maybe there are a couple of tiny pacing issues in the second half of the story, these are tiny niggles, and, from a writing perspective, this is very strong.

Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, in a promotional photo taken during studio filming on the 1996 TV Movie.

Like the writing, from a production standpoint this is a flawless story. There are some great performances here from actors who take the material offered, and really turn it into something special. Lynsey Hardwick and Steven Pacey (Tarrant from Blake's 7) make a totally believable couple, and they hold the whole story together. If those actors didn't convince in those parts, I suspect we would have a problem. However, both are brilliant, and they are able to sell the depth of feeling between Pat and Trevor, something on which the story hinges. Pacey also has the 'honour' (if one can call it that!) of singing this story's musical number - 'Falling Star': both in its proto-prog rock 60s version, and it's synthesised, 80s pop remix. Both hew closely to the conventions of the era, and, while its message is anything but, I love the 80s version. As a fan of the music of the era, this sounds like something that Stock, Aitkin and Waterman could have come up with, so authentic it is to that period. The remaining members of the guest cast take on the roles of the Zygons: Goodies legend Tim Brooke-Taylor particularly plays the smarmy role of Mims for all the comedy he can get, and the end result is one of the best guest turns in a Big Finish audio quite frankly. Malcolm Stoddard is slightly more intimidating as Urtak, but the pair of them remain in step, and their comedy double act is fun to be around. Finally, the cast is topped off with, of course, our regulars, who remain as amazing as ever. Sheridan Smith, in particular, has fun voicing her Zygon doppelgänger, and I love how she differentiates the two characters, while, at the same time, hinting at their similarities. The direction from Barnaby Edwards is top class, and the post-production from Andy Hardwick and Gareth Jenkins remains of the high standard you'd come to expect from Big Finish Productions, especially in their use of original sound effects for the Zygon ship and transformations. Once again, the care and attention that is put into this release is something to be greatly admired.

Sheridan Smith as Lucie Miller, in a picture taken during her return in 2016 for two Short Trips audios.

In conclusion, then, "The Zygon Who Fell to Earth" is one of the standout Eighth Doctor/Lucie Miller adventures for this listener. A script that mixes comedy and drama superbly, some wonderful characters and a hugely popular Doctor and companion at the peak of their powers was always going to be a recipe for success, but, make no mistake, this goes above and beyond what was expected of it, and it becomes one of the standouts from this series, as well as a key turning point in the Eighth Doctor Adventures. Up till this point, the adventures are often fun and light, with generally happy endings. After this point, however, everything would be changed forever. But, for now, "The Zygon Who Fell to Earth" stands as a strong marker of everything that makes the Eighth Doctor Adventures great. Zygons, pop music and the Lake District? What's not to love? This is properly great.

You can purchase "The Zygon Who Fell to Earth" as a digital download from the Big Finish website. Just type 'Zygon' into the search bar at the top of the page.

All pictures copyright to Big Finish Productions/the BBC/Universal. Thank you very much for reading.

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About the author

Joseph A. Morrison

25. Fan of Doctor Who, Blake's 7, The Prisoner and more old-fashioned TV. Reviewer, wannabe writer and general twit.

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