By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues
Doctor Who: 1001 Nights
Published by: Big Finish
Starring: Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton
Peter Davison has often said he would loved to have had Nyssa as his solitary companion in the television series and thanks to the cliffhanger at the end of his first season where Tegan was left behind on Earth at Heathrow airport, there is a gap in the canon where the fifth Doctor and Nyssa were the only occupants of the Tardis. Big Finish has taken this opportunity to tell tales of these stories and 1001 Nights is no exception.
Here we find Nyssa at the hands of a Sultan played by Deep Space 9 and Primeval star Alexander Siddig. To keep the Doctor alive, Nyssa must tell the Sultan stories of monsters and far away lands to keep him entertained. But at first glance they may seem a parochial tale to tell other shorter stories but it turns out to be much more. Even the opening scene which sees the Doctor and Nyssa battling a rock monster with magic and flying carpets is a nice nod to exaggeration in storytelling. The events must be made more fantastical to keep the Sultan’s attention. Sarah Sutton does a great job of portraying a girl from a placid society standing alone in the face of adversity. She must break through the Sultan’s arrogance to convince him that his land is facing a terrible danger from demons; demons that only the Doctor can defeat.
The Ganther have left a beacon behind in the Sultan’s palace somewhere and the aliens they work for are on their way. But this matters not to the Sultan; all he wants to know about is stories about the travellers’ adventures in time and space. But, with the Doctor locked in a dungeon, can Nyssa survive long enough to buy the Doctor enough time to escape? As Nyssa faces her own mortality, the Doctor discovers prisoners that hate their cells being broken into and something else. But don’t be fooled thinking this is just Nyssa telling story after story. When you least expect it, the story kicks off in a new direction which spins a new take on an old theme.
Peter Davison does his usual sterling job (loved his line, ‘I’m quite good with corridors’), Alexander Siddig lights up anything he is in (having met him in real life, I am slightly biased) and Sarah Sutton adds layers to Nyssa that should have been done on television. Often the companions of those days fell foul of sloppy and lazy writing and, with the crowded Tardis, Nyssa was lost in the crowd of Adric and Tegan and then Turlough. Thankfully the Big Finish range has taken these characters and made them all what they should have been all along.
Overall, a very entertaining story that has left me with a burning desire to see a certain person in the role of the Doctor. Listen and see if you agree with me…