Circular Time isn’t a four-part story, but it is in fact an anthology of four one-part stories. The story titles come from the four seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
This isn’t the first Big Finish Doctor Who anthology I’ve experienced. The first was Time Apart which I will review at some point this year.
The stars of the anthology are the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa. The first three stories take place during Season 19b between Time-Flight and Arc of Infinity, whilst the final story, Winter, takes place for Nyssa between Terminus and the older Nyssa stories by Big Finish, whilst for the Doctor it takes place during the Caves of Androzani.
It was co-written by Paul Cornell and Mike Maddox. I had faith in Paul as he also write for the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa in the VMA novel Goth Opera which I’ve been enjoying. I looked forward to listening to this anthology considering that it is a favourite of Tim Bradley. Will I enjoy it as much as he did? Let’s see.
This is considered to be the simplest of the four stories. I certainly found it that way with limited action, although there is a lot of drama. The Doctor and Nyssa arrive on an alien planet that is home to bird-like creatures known as the Avions.
They soon stumble across two Avions fighting. They are then taken to the ruler of the planet. The Doctor is shocked to discover that the ruler is in fact a Time-Lord. This Time-Lord goes by the name of Zero. In his presence, we get to learn a lot more about Time-Lord politics.
The laws of the planet that is home to the Avions are quite grim. Their leader Lady Carron doesn’t just punish the Avions that took part in the fight, she also sentences their family members to be punished.
The Doctor and Nyssa have really good chemistry in this story. Nyssa has a lot to say about the laws of the planet and towards the start she brings the Doctor up on interfering.
By the end of the story, the future of the Avions planet is left ambiguous. Zero falls into the lake and regenerates into a half Time-Lord, half bird creature. He states that he will be implementing new laws, including punishment of only the Avions that commit violence against each other, not their families.
Doctor Who has had a variety of historical figures turn up. In this story, we are treated to Sir Isaac Newton. Paul Cornell and Mike Maddox’s interpretation of him is quite intriguing and exciting to listen to.
A grave error by the Doctor has led Sir Isaac to arrest him and Nyssa to then be thrown in the Tower of London. The Doctor gave Nyssa coins from the wrong era to pay for their tavern fare.
Sir Isaac shows great interest in the coins that the Doctor has on him. He predicts many future events and even suspects that the Doctor is a traveller in time and space. The tension mounts when Sir Isaac accuses the Doctor of being a show-off. At one point, the Doctor tries to get out by attempting a magic trick using of the coins that was taught to him by Harry Houdini.
Shockingly at the story’s climax, the Doctor starts educating Sir Isaac which causes him to feel extremely unwell. Upon this, he lets the Doctor and Nyssa go. The Doctor tells Nyssa that they will be forgotten by him soon.
Compared to Spring, Summer is much more interesting. There is a lot of black humour and weird dialogue, but it all works out in the end to tell a compelling story.
In this part of Circular Time, we are shown a side of Nyssa that we don’t usually see. That being her romantic side. Nyssa falls in love with a man named Andrew Whittaker, played by Jamie Sandford. This happens whilst Nyssa and the Doctor are in the English village of Stockbridge.
Nyssa gets to go through the motions of falling in love on Earth. Andrew even takes her to a village called Traken. Nyssa is shocked by this and actually points to where her Traken used by. Andrew is confused at first, but as the story progresses he actually begins to believe her.
Nyssa also uses her time in Stockbridge to write a novel about her travels. Andrew calls it fantasy which Nyssa insists isn’t the case. She also declines to put a villain in the novel. Despite some disagreements, Nyssa and Andrew seem to have something of a relationship even kissing at one point. The Doctor later finds them both behind a bush.
The Doctor has his own sub-plot. He has joined the local Stockbridge Cricket Club to help them avoid relegation. He plays well in the matches although he doesn’t do so well with his teammates in the conversation department. They seem to make politically incorrect statements especially against Estonians which the Doctor does not approve of.
Andrew invites Nyssa to the ball that will take place on the evening of the last game of the Cricket season. Shockingly, the Cricketer named Don dies just as he makes the winning play prompting the organisers to cancel the ball. The next morning, Andrew wakes to find Nyssa gone and her book on the table.
Unlike the other three episodes in the anthology which take place during Season 19b, Winter takes place between Terminus and Cobwebs for Nyssa, whilst for the Doctor it takes place during his regeneration in the Caves of Androzani. They manage to meet in each other’s dreams.
The Doctor seems to be married to a woman named Anima and is living in a farmhouse. He also has two children names Tegan and Adric. It turns out that this is just how he remembers his former companions. Anima is later revealed to be Kamelion in disguise.
Nyssa is actually married herself to a man named Lasarti. They even have an infant daughter named Neeka. Nyssa is relcutant for Lasarti to follow her into the dream, but he does as he is a dream specialist. He helps Nyssa in getting the Doctor the Doctor to remember who he is.
Winter has cameos of the Watcher and the Master, the latter in the form of an evil laugh. The Doctor is able to get through and with the aid of his former companions including Nyssa, Tegan, Adric and Turlough manage to aid him into regeneration so that he can return to his then current companion Peri Brown.
Nyssa and Lasarti then return home. Nyssa has a closing speech reminiscing about her travels with the Doctor and that she’ll always remember him. Of course, this won’t be the last time she sees him, but that’s a story for another time.
I had a lot of fun in checking out Circular Time. Tim Bradley was right in saying that it is really good and it has also enticed me to want to check out other Season 19b Big Finish stories.
Take care, WF92.