The Wishing Beast: The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Melanie to an isolated asteroid, home of the elderly Applewhite sisters. Oddly, they seem more eager to meet Mel than the Doctor, offering her a reward beyond imagining – an appointment with the Wishing Beast, who they claim can bring Mel’s fondest wishes to life. Indeed, not only are the sisters unimpressed by the Doctor, they begin to make little secret of the fact that they regard their colorful, inquisitive visitor as an obstacle to their plans. Ghostly spirits appear in opposittion to the sisters and the Wishing Beast, spirits which the Applewhites capture with what appears to be a specially equipped vacuum cleaner. The Doctor sets out to encounter some of these spirits on his own, suspecting that they can tell him the part of the story that the Applewhites aren’t sharing with him – and learning, along the way, of the horrible fate that awaits Melanie if she is introduced to the Wishing Beast.
The Vanity Box: Promising to take Mel someplace “fabulous” after the ordeal with the Applewhite family, the Doctor brings her to London in 1965, where a beautician with an unusual device, which he calls the Vanity Box, can literally take years off of a person’s face. Suspecting that dangerous alien technology is involved, the Doctor “drags it up” to find out what’s really inside the box, where he finds an old enemy.
The Wishing Beast Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Melanie); Jean Marsh (Maria); Geraldine Newman (Eliza); Sean Connolly (Ghost/Mildew); Toby Sawyer (Daniel/Ghost Brother); Toby Longworth (The Wishing Beast); Rachel Laurence (Female Ghost)
The Vanity Box Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Bonnie Langford (Melanie); Diana Flacks (Nesta); Christine Moore (Winnie); Rachel Laurence (Bessy/Barmaid); Toby Longworth (Monsieur Coiffure)
Notes: Jean Marsh appeared as Joanna in the 1965 story The Crusade on TV, before joining the first Doctor and Steven as Space Security Agent Sara Kingdom on their time travels for the duration of the 12-part The Daleks’ Masterplan. Marsh returned much later to play Morgaine in Battlefield, the opening story of the final season of the original series in 1989. She has since reprised the role of Space Security Agent Sara Kingdom (deceased) in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles audiobooks.
Timeline: after The Seeds Of War and before Time And The Rani
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: A double feature revolving around a single adversary, The Wishing Beast and The Vanity Box feature a Doctor/companion lineup that’s become something of a rarity, not least of which is because Bonnie Langford’s schedule is jam-packed with things that don’t involve Doctor Who. Once again, Big Finish turns the pairing of the sixth Doctor and Mel into something more likeable and less ridiculous than that team appeared on TV. There’s also more than a slight hint of influence from the new series, resulting in a bittersweet scene: Melanie reveals her wish that her travels with the Doctor will never end. Of course, the listener knows that it will, and probably not too long after this adventure, which precedes the Doctor’s regeneration into his seventh persona and Mel’s eventual departure.
But for now, the Doctor and Mel are a TARDIS team to be reckoned with. While not exactly joined in lockstep, they’ve obviously been in each other’s company long enough to read each other’s cues. Good thing, too, as the primary story puts them up against an adversary whose aim is to separate the time travelers from one another. The secondary one-parter is a bit less satisfying by comparison – for the most part, it’s a comedy piece revolving around a singular gag, which is the notion of the sixth Doctor in drag. The intriguing thing about the two stories together is that they form a loop – the manner in which the Doctor dispatches the beast in The Vanity Box leaves it in the position in which he will first encounter it in The Wishing Beast. It’s a neat little narrative trick that modern TV Doctor Who would probably needlessly turn into a season-spanning story arc.