The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Peri to Baltimore, 1984 – four months since, as far as her family and friends know, Peri disappeared without a trace at Lanzarote. Far from being a happy reunion, Peri’s arrival coincides with the apparent murder of Anthony Chambers, her best friend’s father. Peri discovers that her friends and her mother aren’t exactly overjoyed to see her. The Doctor becomes interested in Chambers’ death, and when he discovers the Cybermen are behind the incident, he wonders why they’ve targeted one man. Even when the Doctor thinks he’s close to solving the mystery, it’s putting Peri, her mother and her friends into mortal danger.
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Claudia Christian (Janine Foster), Stuart Milligan (Anthony Chambers), Jane Perry (Kathy Chambers), Jeremy Lindsay-Taylor (Nate Chambers), Vincent Pirillo (Daniel Woods), John Schwab (Lt. Doyle), Denise Bryer (Mrs. Van Gysegham), Allison Karaynes (Natalie Hamilton), Nicholas Briggs (Cyberman voice)
Notes: Claudia Christian is well known to SF fans on both sides of the Atlantic for her portrayal of Commander Susan Ivanova in the first four seasons of Babylon 5; unlike her B5 co-star Peter Jurasik, who guest starred in the earlier Big Finish audio play Winter For The Adept, she now lives and works full-time in the UK.
Original Title: Dead Men Walking
Timeline: After …ish and before The Year Of The Pig
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: One of the best Doctor Who audios in quite some time, The Reaping is a story that not features as much drama courtesy of the Doctor’s old enemies as there is from rather more personal matters, showing that Big Finish has had to wake up and take notice of the new series, stylistically speaking.
It’s actually surprising how effective Claudia Christian is here; she far outshines Peter Jurasik’s guest turn during the early months of the Big Finish Doctor Who audios, and her rapport with Nicola Bryant and Colin Baker is surprising. Part of that is in the script, which manages to point out how much of her personality Peri gets from her mother – which therefore implies that her mother could be well-suited to TARDIS traveling duty. (The pairing of Baker and Christian also results in what has to be my favorite out-of-left-field dialogue exchange of any of the Big Finish stories: “I’d say it was some kind of pod.” “From space?” “No, from Arkansas.”) I suppose comparisons to Aliens Of London are inevitable with the scenario of Peri’s return home after a long, unexplained absence, but the whole angle of attack is different; one of my favorite scenes in the entire story is Peri’s explanation that the Doctor literally gave up his life for her. Since the fifth Doctor’s sacrifice in Caves Of Androzani is really the most personal sacrifice of any of his lives to date (and that includes the new series), this makes for a truly unique perspective on why Peri continues to travel in the TARDIS.
The Cybermen put in one of their scariest appearances here, despite the invasion plan being almost as convoluted as the Dalek battle plan in Resurrection Of The Daleks. The script ultimately makes better use of a limited number of Cybermen than many of their TV stories do, though mention is also made of how limited their forces are throughout space. It’s interesting to note that the background sound effects of the Cybermen’s captured Time Lord vessel is the same as the eighth Doctor’s TARDIS…
Overall, it’s a teriffic story, one of Joseph Lidster’s finest contributions to the Doctor Who audio series (and that’s saying something, since many of his stories are among the cream of the Big Finish crop). It adds the kind of depth to Peri’s character and backstory that simply wasn’t done on the original TV series until Ace came along, and even gives her a dignified exit, as well as explaining why we see an older, wiser, more somber Peri in The Trial Of A Time Lord. The Reaping is really good stuff, one of the best Big Finish stories yet.