Mission To Magnus

Doctor Who: Mission To MagnusA run-in with the Anzor, the school bully who lorded over him at the Time Lord Academy, has the Doctor running scared, to Peri’s amazement. The TARDIS brings them to the planet Magnus, where the divide between genders has left women in charge of the planet with men as an enslaved underclass. The Doctor and Peri also discover that Sil, their old profiteering nemesis, is at work on Magnus, working a play-all-sides-against-the-middle swindle. One of the sides that doesn’t reveal itself until later is a party of rogue Ice Warriors, planning to create an environmental disaster that will make Magnus more suitable for themselves. But even the locals aren’t welcoming the Doctor and Peri’s help this time.

Order this CDwritten by Philip Martin
directed by Lisa Bowerman
music by Simon Robinson

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Nabil Shaban (Sil), Malcolm Rennie (Anzor), Maggie Steed (Madamme Rana Zandusia), Susan Franklyn (Jarmaya / Tace), Tina Jones (Ulema / Soma), William Townsend (Vion), Callum Witney Mills (Asam), Nicholas Briggs (Brorg / Vedikael / Grand Marshall / Ishka), James George (Skaarg / Jarga / Hussa)

Notes: Nabil Shaban reprises the role of Sil for the first time since Doctor Who‘s 1986 season; to date, all of the character’s TV and audio appearances have been penned by his creator, writer Philip Martin. Martin has written other stories for Big Finish’s audio plays, namely The Creed Of The Kromon, which introduced the eighth Doctor’s alien companion C’rizz.

Timeline: after The Nightmare Fair and before Leviathan

LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green

Review: In book form, Mission To Magnus was my least favorite of the abandoned season 23 TV-scripts-turned-novels in the 1990s. But on audio (and setting aside the fact that Big Finish was unable to reach an agreement with the writer of The Ultimate Evil to adapt that story), Magnus is my favorite. It’s the same story with the same almost-hilariously-outmoded approach to feminism as a plot device. What’s the difference? Two words: Nabil Shaban.

Shaban originated the role of Sil, a greedy green creature who was the closest the Colin Baker era came to generating a classic, recurring villain in the Doctor Who mythos, in 1985’s Vengeance On Varos, and was slated to reprise the role in the scrapped TV version of Mission To Magnus. When the planned 23rd season was nixed, Philip Martin wrote a replacement story featuring Sil, Mindwarp (a.k.a. the fifth through eighth episodes of The Trial Of A Time Lord), which also featured Shaban. Like many other aspects of the sixth Doctor‘s brief and turbulent reign, Sil vanished when the seventh Doctor arrived (which is a pity, as one can only imagine what classic verbal sparring could’ve transpired between Sil and Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor). Shaban effortlessly recreates Sil in audio form, down to the character’s deeply disturbing laugh, while Nick Briggs is on hand to recreate the sound of the other returning baddies, the Ice Warriors (for whom Magnus would’ve been the first appearance since the Pertwee era).

Those cast members playing human characters are lumbered with very, very 1985 dialogue, where Sil winds up with dialogue that’s timeless – and of course, that character’s obsession with money and profit and any cost (which predates the Ferengi‘s arrival in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation by a couple of years, by the way) has only become more relevant with time. Less timeless is the story’s third villain, a renegade Time Lord named Anzor who bullied the Doctor during their Gallifreyan school days; this character’s (mis)behavior doesn’t line up with even the worst-behaved renegade
Time Lords.

Again, the double dose of lengthy extras, featuring interviews with Shaban, writer Philip Martin, Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and the Big Finish brass, is fascinating stuff, helping to put some historical perspective to the story and to the 1985-86 cancellation/hiatus debacle in general. Shaban goes into great detail about his attempts to land a part in Doctor Who prior to Varos, and even if you’ve watched the Varos DVD with the commentary, there’s stuff here you might not know. Mission To Magnus is a step back into 1980s Doctor Who, with both the fun and the foibles that that entails.