Review – Big Finish Doctor Who #9: “The Spectre of Lanyon Moor”

This is the next in line of my Big Finish Productions Doctor Who retro-reviews.

#9 – “The Spectre of Lanyon Moor”

From Big Finish’s site:

In a desolate Cornish landscape littered with relics of prehistoric man, the doctor and Evelyn uncover a catalogue of mysteries. What is the secret of the fogou? Can the moor be haunted by a demonic host of imps? And what is Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart doing in Pengriffen? Teaming up with his old friend, the Doctor realises that an ancient conflict is nearing its conclusion – and Lanyon Moor is set to be the final battleground.

Written By: Nicholas Pegg

Directed By: Nicholas Pegg


Colin Baker (The Doctor); Maggie Stables (Evelyn Smythe); Nicholas Courtney (The Brigadier); Susan Jameson (Mrs Moynihan); Barnaby Edwards (Philip Ludgate/Scryfan); Toby Longworth (Professor Morgan/Sancreda/UNIT Sentry); James Bolam (Sir Archibald Flint); Helen Goldwyn (Nikki Hunter/Pelagia Stamatis/Corporal Croft); Nicholas Pegg (Captain Ashforde)

***minor spoilers ahead***

After the minor disappointment from last week’s “Red Dawn,” Big Finish reclaims its reputation for rock solid storytelling and superb characterization with “The Spectre of Lanyon Moor.”  This episode welcomes the return of (the now late) Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.  Unlike in the classic series, it should be noted that the Brigadier suffers no convenient laspes of incompetence here.  It used to annoy me that Sgt. Benton was the only member of UNIT who was ever really worth his salt, but the Brigadier steps up here, throwing around his clout as a retired officer in all the right places.  It’s good to have him back.  Likewise, Maggie Stables returns as the 6th Doctor’s companion Dr. Evelyn Smythe, and kudos to her for making Evelyn a more realistic and enjoyable companion than in her debut.

Because I can, I’ll also point out that Colin Baker is commonly referred to as “the most improved Doctor” and a fan favorite because of these Big Finish audios.  This episode is one of those that proves why.  His performance is consistent and enthusiastic throughout the entire line, and he just seems to grow more personable with each passing episode.

Since it’s established in the opening sequence that the “spectre” is connected with an alien abandoned on Earth so long ago, it’s no spoiler to say that this episode has a bit of a Stargate flavor, where neolithic sites and Celtic relics point back to ancient aliens.  Erich von Däniken would be proud, and so would “Scary Hair Guy.”  One of the great things about classic Doctor Who is the idea that even if things are connected back to aliens, anything supernatural or mysterious is given a plausible explanation within the confines of the Whoniverse.  Such is certainly the case here.  I love a good supernatural thriller, don’t get me wrong, but when it comes to the big reveals, Doctor Who operates in the same vein as Sherlock Holmes: everything has a practical explanation.  As the Great Detective once stated, “No ghosts need apply.”  (Remember I said this when I completely negate it next week.)

The soundscape on this episode is particularly well done, again a vast improvement over the previous episode.  The music and sound effects lend themselves perfectly to the theater of the mind, proving once again that old school radio is still the most imaginative medium available for storytelling.  On the whole, I highly recommend this episode for both classic and new fans alike, regardless of level of “expertise.”