Aboard a cargo ship buffeted by the high seas during a storm, the Doctor and Peri go from being cautiously welcomed guests to murder suspects when a member of the crew is killed. The ship’s captain orders the Doctor locked up pending his court-martial…but when his own chief mate protests that the Doctor isn’t even a member of the ship’s company and crew, the captain drafts him into service to replace the ship’s missing doctor (reasoning that now the Doctor can undergo a court-martial and subsequent execution). Peri tends to a wheelchair-bound girl who receives periodic “treatments” from the chief mate, discovering that the girl is a captive specimen of a species thought to exist only in myths. Her people will be coming to rescue her soon…but will they make the distinction between the girl’s corrupt captor and everyone else on board the ship?
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Tony Beck (Chief Mate De Requin), Michael Cuckson (Captain Callany), Billy Miller (Nereus), Naomi Paxton (Amy)
Timeline: after Davros and before The Trial Of A Time Lord
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: Originally made available only to direct subscribers of Big Finish’s monthly Doctor Who audio dramas, Cryptobiosis was described by producer/director Gary Russell as a story that the makers of audio Doctor Who “just had to do” after seeing the script sent in during an open season on story submissions. The result is a nice one-part story that does what it needs to do before getting off the stage, without much extraneous padding.
At its heart, Cryptobiosis is a morality tale with a firm grounding in traditional Doctor Who style; one could as easily imagine Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker as the Doctor in this story, or, for that matter, Christopher Eccleston. Pertwee seems especially apt, though, as this story is made from the mold of such TV stories as Doctor Who and the Silurians: the Doctor meets ambitious humans doing Something Terribly Wrong at the expense of a species which has barely only been glimpsed on Earth, and when the oppressed stand up for themselves, the Doctor, try as he might to prevent further bloodshed, ultimately steps aside and lets events take their course. It’s almost funny to say this, but as many times as Big Finish has tried to break the Doctor Who storytelling mold lately, with mixed results, there’s something very comfy about a tale that comes down on the “trad” side of the still-ongoing “trad vs. rad” debate left over from the New Adventures era.
Now, as for the bit about mermaids…well, hey, if we can have fish people, we can have mermaids.