Once again, the Doctor is trying to take Tegan to Brisbane, but not to leave the TARDIS; this time she wants to show off her home town to her friends. But interference in the time vortex nearly tears the TARDIS apart; the time machine is thrown off course, and Turlough and Nyssa vanish completely. The Doctor tries to follow them through time, but instead arrives in 51st century Brisbane. Tegan is horrified to see that Earth has become polluted, and the Doctor immediately suspects that the TARDIS has been thrown off-course by the time experiments conducted by Magnus Greel, a time-traveling serial killer he dealt with in his fourth incarnation. Nyssa and Turlough end up spending three years as part of the resistance trying to expose Greel’s corruption before they see the Doctor again, while Tegan and the Doctor arrive in time to see Greel at the height of his corruption and madness. They’re horrified to see that Nyssa is now posing as Greel’s fiancee (and Turlough as her personal assistant), and that Greel’s scientific advisor, an alien named Findecker, is continuing experiments with time travel that permanently disfigure the user and force him to drain life energy from others. At every turn, someone wants the Doctor to make sure Greel dies for his crimes – but the Doctor, knowing that Greel will die in another place and time, can’t keep that promise and can’t explain why.
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Angus Wright (Magnus Greel), Rupert Frazer (Dr. Sa Yy Findecker), Felicity Duncan (Ingrid Bjarnsdottir), Daniel Weyman (Ragan Crezzen), Daisy Ashford (Sasha Dialfa), John Banks (Eugene Duplessis / Chops)
Notes: The Doctor claims to be a Time Agent (The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, The Empty Child) to conceal his true identity. Findecker was established in – of all things – a Brief Encounters short story by Warren Ellis in a 1991 issue of Doctor Who Magazine; that story did not mention Findecker’s species or origins, only his surname, leaving Butcher Of Brisbane writer Marc Platt plenty of room to create a character. At the end of the story, Greel uses his time cabinet to escape (with Mr. Sin in tow), and his next stop is foggy Victorian London, where he will once again meet the Doctor (this time in his fourth incarnation, who has yet to experience this adventure), this time working with the formidable team of Jago & Litefoot, in The Talons Of Weng-Chiang.
Timeline: for the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough: between Enlightenment and The King’s Demons; for Nyssa: 50 years after Terminus. This story takes place after The Jupiter Conjunction and before Eldrad Must Die!.
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: Opting for a very timey-wimey approach to both sequelizing and prequelizing one of the most beloved installments of Tom Baker-era Doctor Who, Marc Platt manages to deliver the goods. One of the risks with cramming entire “seasons” of Big Finish audio stories in between established television stories is that one runs the risk of completely throwing jeopardy out the window: we know our heroes will survive, we’ve seen and heard them beyond this story. Despite that, Platt plausibly places the characters in significant danger throughout this story, complete with the kind of cliffhangers that leave you muttering “oh crap” (or worse!) under your breath.
There’s also a risk in following up on The Talons Of Weng-Chiang in particular, because there’s so much said about Magnus Greel’s background that’s so terribly specific: the TV story established Greel’s moniker as the Butcher of Brisbane, gave him a time cabinet that horribly disfigured him due to its hamfisted construction, and mentioned his role in a war against Iceland. Platt accepts the challenge of paying all of these things off in the course of this story, and everything manages to fit together. (If you still can’t get enough of the millieu set up in Talons, allow me to suggest Big Finish’s best Doctor Who spinoff series yet, following the adventures of Jago & Litefoot.)
One of my favorite lines here almost defines the entire series, as Tegan begs the Doctor to “stop holding time’s hand” and allow history to change. And usually, in stories set in the future, the Doctor does make sweeping changes to history; this story very logically looks at all of time, past and future, as history from the Doctor’s perspective. Even stories set in fictional futures should have this kind of Aztecs-inspired argument included in them.
The Butcher Of Brisbane has the intense feel of a season-ender and thrills aplenty – all you can really ask for.