The Doctor brings his friends to Calcutta, India to sit back and watch a cricket match, but things almost immediately take an unexpected turn when a fellow spectator shows signs of being infected with rabies. As Nyssa tries to tend to the man, a British soldier steps forward and ends the man’s suffering with a gunshot to the gut – but not before the rabid man has bitten Nyssa. Appalled, the Doctor and Turlough confront the shooter, Major Haggard, only to find he has no pity for the victim (or, indeed, for anyone else). Tegan, sent to the TARDIS to get a medical kit, returns to the Doctor with the alarming news that the TARDIS has been removed from where it landed. The TARDIS is spotted on a train, and Turlough and Tegan manage to climb aboard the train as it leaves the station, while the Doctor and a still-unconscious Nyssa must find other transport, getting help from Professor Narayan. Aboard the train with Tegan and Turlough are Major Haggard and an enormous tiger, which seems to have a telepathic and empathic link with Nyssa. Haggard thinks he’s trying to track down a treasure, but the Doctor soon learns that the real treasure is an alien life force deposited on ancient Earth by a meteorite impact. That life force’s new inheritor, Nyssa, may never be the same.
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Cherie Lunghi (Lady Adela), Sam Dastor (Professor Narayan), Vincent Ebrahim (Shardul Khan), Neil Stacy (Major Haggard), Vineeta Rishi (Dawon), Gwilym Lee (Djahn / Lord Edgar), Trevor Cooper (Colonel Creighton / Kimball)
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 Rat Trap and before The Jupiter Conjunction.
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: An unusual trip into “Heart of Darkness” territory, The Emerald Tiger is a story with deadly perils for each of the regulars to face, and a compelling sci-fi element stretching back far further than the immediate story told here. With its foreign setting, The Emerald Tiger features numerous Indian actors, lending the whole thing a great deal of authenticity. As with A Thousand Tiny Wings, there’s some criticism of the bygone age of British colonialism built into the script, and while that criticism rings true, it’s slightly undermined by the portrayal of Haggard, who is often written in various shades of Biggles-esque, “deary me, old chap!” self-parody. The scenes in which Haggard is showing his true colors and commandeers the train are a good deal weightier, relaxing the stiff-upper-lip schtick in favor of barely-restrained savagery concealed by a superficial veneer of feigned politeness, stretched to its breaking point. (Having shown that he could be a real threat, Haggard then seems to be set aside by the script until he gets his abrupt comeuppance.)
The opening teaser is one of those traumatic scenes which will prove to be quite disturbing, depending on how good the special-effects-and-gore department of your imagination is. Resolution for this scene does arrive late in the story, but it remains a very memorable scene, particularly since the sound design lends it a reality that the rest of the story, with its stylized dialogue and science fiction elements, doesn’t quite achieve.
While the four regulars have plenty to do, there’s still some inconsistency with the writers’ treatment of Turlough. The ongoing reunion of the season 20 cast has been one of Big Finish’s most interesting pieces of casting, but it would be dandy if we could decide whether Turlough’s going to be Slimy and Cowardly, or Actually Surprisingly Brave. Mark Strickson can act either one, but it’d be nice if the writers could make up their minds.