After a near-miss with the TIme Lords’ time scoop in the vortex, the TARDIS materializes in the cargo hold of a space freighter. The Doctor and Lucie are immediately ambushed the moment they set foot on the ship; Lucie awakens in a prison cell, with no idea who took the Doctor or where he was taken, and is questioned by a large, centipede-like police officer named Rosto, who doesn’t seem inclined to believe a word she says. Straxus appears, asks Lucie about the Doctor’s whereabouts, and then infuriates her by leaving her stranded in Rosto’s custody. A woman appears and attempts to kidnap Lucie, but when her cover story slips, Rosto comes to the rescue. Lucie’s would-be kidnapper vanishes into thin air, but not before Rosto identifies her as the leader of the raiding party that took the Doctor. Rosto and Lucie follow the clues and discover that the woman was a member of an obscure mystic sect called the Sisterhood of Karn. Rosto and Lucie travel to Karn, hoping that they’ll find the Doctor there, unaware that a much larger crisis looms, endangering the whole universe.
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), Sheridan Smith (Lucie Miller), Kenneth Colley (Zarodnix), Alexander Siddig (Rosto), Nickolas Grace (Straxus), Barry McCarthy (Bulek / Eurelz Captain), Nicola Weeks (Haspira / Trell), Katarina Olsson (Orthena / Trell), Barnaby Edwards (Galactinet)
Notes: The Sisterhood of Karn was last encountered in 1976’s The Brain Of Morbius, where they helped and hindered the Doctor in his fourth incarnation as he battled the revived Time Lord dictator, Morbius. Guest star Alexander Siddig is practically a household name among science fiction fans, having co-starred as Dr. Julian Bashir in all seven seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; after returning to Britain from America, Siddig (the stage name of Siddig El Fadil) has returned to theater and TV work.
Timeline: after The Zygon Who Fell To Earth and before The Vengeance Of Morbius
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: In the tradition of the new TV series, the eighth Doctor / Lucie audio adventures here begin the build-up to an epic end-of-season adventure. With this second “season” having been released directly to CD before being licensed to BBC7 for radio broadcast, Big Finish had a somewhat freer hand in deciding which classic series villains to revive (the first “season” commissioned by BBC Radio stuck with the somewhat obvious Daleks and Cybermen).
Sisters Of The Flame is a disorienting first part of the traditional season-ending two-parter, as the Doctor is kidnapped early on and the story sticks with Lucie for much of the rest of the episode; this has the interesting effect of putting us in Lucie’s shoes in that the listener doesn’t know what’s happened to the Doctor either. Accompanying Lucie for most of the episode is a large, centipede-like creature called Rosto, portrayed by Alexander Siddig of Deep Space Nine fame. This piece of casting is almost a disappointment. It’s not that Siddig is disappointing, it’s just that an actor of his ability might be better spent on a role that’s less about obvious police procedural dialogue, clipped delivery and a heavily processed voice. Rosto is all of those things in one, and frankly, any member of the “Big Finish rep” could’ve played the part, and surely something meatier could’ve been found for such a big name guest star.
The story also capitalizes on just how vague the background of the Sisterhood is. Nothing here violates The Brain Of Morbius, and expands on it subtly: obviously time has moved on for the Sisters, with different characters than the ones we saw in Morbius (which almost begs some exploration of where new members of an all-female order come from), but they have the same telekinetic abilities and the same disdain for the Time Lords. Factor in an unusually serious Straxus and the Time Scoop (last seen in 1983’s The Five Doctors, and even then flagged as forbidden technology, so this must be serious), and this story does its classic series inspirations proud.
A lot of Sisters Of The Flame rides on Sheridan Smith’s performance, and she does not disappoint. This is almost the equivalent of the new TV series’ “Doctor-light” episodes (i.e. Blink, Love & Monsters, Turn Left), and shows that there’s potential for the occasional off-format experiment in the audio medium as well.