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Seasons of Fear

Doctor Who: The Big Finish Audio Adventures #30
Eddy Wolverson

I enjoyed this audio adventure far, far more than I expected that I would. The synopsis looked quite interesting, but I never imagined I’d be ranking this story up in my top twenty-odd stories ever!

“Seasons of Fear” worked for me on three fronts really. First off, and most importantly, it felt fresh and new - it’s ironic that Cornell and Symcox were taking the shows original format for inspiration! Each episode saw the Doctor and Charley follow Grayle through history, and as well as entertaining us, we learn a little about history in each episode too! It’s very much in the spirit of the First Doctor, and although McGann and Hartnell’s portrayals are worlds apart, you can’t help but get that “Marco Polo” feel from the story.

Secondly, Grayle is one of the most unique and interesting adversaries the Doctor has faced in any of his adventures, be they on TV, on CD or in print. When we first meet him he is a bitter and mocking old man who breaks the first law of time, taunting the Doctor about he has already killed him (in the Doctor’s future), how he has become immortal, and how his mysterious “masters” now rule the world. As the Doctor and Charley embark on a journey back through to time (with the intention of stopping Grayle doing whatever he’s done and setting history back on it’s proper course… “time classic” as the Doctor amusingly refers to the proper timeline) they encounter Grayle (or ‘Graylai’ as he was then known) in 400 A.D., where he was just a misguided young man. Thwarting his plans to bring his mysterious “masters” to Earth then, the Doctor and Charley thwart his plans once again 750 years later, where Grayle is now a Bishop in the court of Edward the Confessor. It’s almost impossible to put the 750 year gap into perspective (it’s almost as long as the even Doctor has lived!) and over the centuries Grayle has become bitter and twisted, thoroughly evil. Stephen Perring puts in a wonderfully convincing performance as we see Grayle fall from grace over such a long, painful period. 750 years on, the Doctor encounters Grayle once more though this time he isn’t able to prevent his “masters” from arriving…

Thirdly, the storyline about the damage to the web of time caused by the Doctor rescuing Charley from the R101 (referred to in “Minuet in Hell” and more recently, the brilliant “Chimes of Midnight”) continues with some amazing twists and developments. After all, it is this damage to the web of time which allowed Grayle’s masters to take advantage and master space and time, making the Earth the first world they would “…feed upon.” There are clues spread throughout the first three episodes as to who these mysterious aliens are, and any hardcore fan would know them instantly… but I didn’t! Despite some totally obvious references it went totally over my head. True, there is a scene in part one which I’m sure is designed to throw you – the soldiers of 400 A.D. are battling a mechanical creature who sounds distinctly like a Dalek. However, throughout we have references to “…great bulls…”, feeding on worlds and using the energy of black holes… they may have only appeared once (and I must add, in one of the worst stories ever) but they are certainly unmistakable. It’s a tremendous achievement that Cornell and Symcox were able to use these abysmal aliens in this thoroughly brilliant story, giving them some credibility!

Of course, it’s Grayle who steals the show and Grayle who the Doctor goes head to head with throughout in a battle of wits across time. The last scene is an absolute stroke of genius; the Doctor appears to Graylai just before he met him the first time in 400 A.D. (if that makes sense… the laws of time are ‘suspended’ for this story you see!) and gives him money. The original motivation for Graylai’s decent into darkness was that he wanted his inheritance so that he could marry his beloved Julia… her Father would not allow her to marry a poor man. The Doctor has a brilliant line where he comments on how you can move money from place to another to solve a problem, but it can only solve the problem it originally created! Earlier on he also has a profound comment about how Grayle’s actions are so big (they would effectively cause the world’s end) but his motivations are so small… he does it for his inheritance! Of course, that was before the Doctor found out Graylai’s actions were for the love of a woman…

The story proper ends on a strange but satisfying paradox, Graylai meeting his future self (who like the Doctor, has travelled back to 400 A.D.) who is holding two women at gunpoint. Appalled at what he would become, Graylai kills his future self, and consequently “time classic” is restored, and as the Doctor says, “The tides of time will wash us all clean.” If only…

Throughout the story, as he did in the “Doctor Who TV Movie”, The Doctor narrates the story. This is a fantastic device for exposition, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been used more considering McGann’s talent for it. However, it’s not until right at the death we realise that the Doctor isn’t narrating the story for the benefit of the listener – he’s telling it to a mysterious third party. It almost seems like a confession as the third party points out that some blame does lie with the Doctor…

In a last minute twist, a haunting apparition appears in the form of Charley, feeding on the ‘chronons’ in two people for the 19th century who were involved in the whole adventure. What this creature is, how it came into existence, and what’s it’s intentions are, we don’t know. Yet…

An amazing story, and from this ongoing ‘Charley’ arc, I can only hope that more quality stuff like this is to come!

Richard Radcliffe

I really like the way this series of 8th Doctor Audios is connected. There is sufficient references to previous stories, and some tantalizing teasers for the next, as to make the whole experience much more worthwhile and enjoyable. It really is a Season of Stories, the like we haven't seen since the TV show finished way back in 1989.

The 3rd Story of this Season is one by Paul Cornell and Caroline Symcox. It promises a traditional tale, a road story which moves location almost every episode. After the less than successful forays into such a genre in the past (Keys of Marinus, The Chase) I hoped this one would be a great deal better, and that Cornell would rise to the challenge, and give us a story we know he is capable of. The finished product falls somewhere between the disappointments of previous road stories, and the excellence of some of Cornell's previous work. It's a good story, continually fascinating, but one that doesn't quite join the "great" Big Finish Audios.

The opening episode is the best of the lot. The Doctor has promised Charley a trip to Singapore - to keep an appointment she has with Alex Grayle. There they encounter Alex's grandfather - Sebastian, and this is where the adventure begins. Sebastian Grayle torments the Doctor, saying he has met him before on numerous occasions. The major revelation the Doctor learns from Grayle is that he died at his hands in the past. This stunning premise is the basis of all that follows. The Doctor, to prevent his own death, goes back in time, and confronts Grayle at various times in British History.

This decision of the Doctor begs the question. Is he leading himself into his own death? Surely if he does not chase Grayle over the centuries he won't die at his hands? It is explained why the Doctor acts in this fashion, but the reason didn't convince me. Nonetheless the premise is a good one, and the Chase over the years makes for some great locations and characters.

Sebastian Grayle is the big supporting guest in this production. Played with quiet authority by Stephen Perring, he's an excellent villain. The script carefully builds Grayles resentment at his immortal fate over the course of the story. His antagonism towards the Doctor is also well done, and we are left wondering throughout who his masters really are. The rest of the supporting cast fulfil the stories objectives adequately.

The leads are excellent. Paul McGann is wonderful as the Doctor and with a considerable number of stories now behind him, has become the Doctor we all wanted him to be. Romantic and mysterious, caring and vibrant. His love of life is the driving force in this story, and it makes a change that this time he is battling to prevent his own death, rather than others. India Fisher builds on her already excellent portrayal of Charley. The 8th Doctor and Charley have already become one of the more memorable TARDIS teams.

Of the various time periods that the story is set in, my favourite was London 1055. Like Paul Cornell I have an interest in English History, and this period of History before 1066 is a particularly fascinating one. British History does not start in 1066, and Edward the Confessors time on the throne was a welcome addition to the many Historical periods the Doctor has visited. The Roman segment, Scotland 305, was probably the worst - but it still was pretty good. Scotland was an obscure backwater of Roman rule back then, and I wondered why that area was chosen ahead of other, more well known Roman locales. The Georgian segment, Bucks 1806, was very good though. Grayles life-journey through the centuries provided the story with a backbone that really works well.

When in the final episode Grayle's Masters are revealed, we go off to the Time Vortex, and the TARDIS (under used in these Audios, just like the TV) features a lot. The choice of Monsters for this tale will be the aspect most debated over the years, I expect. It was a surprise, that's for sure, and I even had to rewind the CD to make sure I heard right. These Monsters do fit in rather well though, and the great thing about Audio is that they will always be more impressive this way. Big Finish are not immune to creating their own monsters in these Audios, but a nice blast from the past, especially when it is done as a surprise like this, is good too.

Seasons of Fear boasts stand-out performance by its 3 main stars - Doctor, Charley and Grayle. The diverse nature of the settings portrayed always keep it interesting, and the story comes together very well. Much has been said of the way Caroline Symcox provided more logic and structure to the thing, and I have to compliment her on her work. It's a collaboration that is successful, and gives us another very good production all round. 8/10

Paul Clarke

‘Seasons of Fear’ is Paul Cornell’s second Big Finish Doctor Who audio, although on this occasion he co-writes it with Caroline Symcox, and it’s really rather good. Whereas in ‘Shadow of the Scourge’ Cornell was writing a story in the style of the New Adventures, here he isn’t and instead endeavors for a rather more light-hearted feel. The result is a story that feels both traditional and fresh; in a nod to certain television stories, ‘Seasons of Fear’ takes the form of a colourful chase through history, and boasts occasional smatterings of educational trivia in keeping with the series’ roots (I was unaware, for example, that there were Normans garrisoned in England years before the invasion). All of this invokes the spirit of the Hartnell era, but Cornell and Symcox also draw on more recent Doctor Who stories, such as McGann’s voiceover from ‘Doctor Who’. Despite drawing on the series past however, the writers breathe new life into it; the revelation in Episode Four that the Doctor is not in fact narrating to the listener but actually recounting the events to a mysterious third party is intriguing, but their greatest triumph is in repeating a trick that Cornell performed in his New Adventure ‘No Future’…

‘Seasons of Fear’ boasted, on its release, one of Big Finish’s best-kept secrets. Just as in ‘No Future’ Cornell reused a decidedly under whelming race of “monsters” but made them a far more awesome threat than they seemed in their first appearance, here he and Symcox do exactly the same thing with monsters generally considered even more under whelming and infinitely sillier. I new before listening to ‘Seasons of Fear’ for the first time that some old enemies would be returning, but I didn’t know which ones. As I started listening to the story, I absently listened to mentions of a demon bull, the use of black holes to focus energy, a servant collecting plutonium for use as a radioactive energy source, and I still didn’t guess, which in retrospect is rather embarrassing. It wasn’t until approximately two minutes before the actual cliffhanger ending to Episode Three that I finally twigged, as Sebastian Grayle says of his masters, “They require the binding energy of organic components” and mention is made of “Their great journey of life” at which point I cried “Of course!” just before the line, “Foolish Time Lord. We are the Nimon. And you are our prey.” As the Doctor says, “I should have realised, there were so many clues.” Back when I reviewed ‘The Horns of Nimon’ I was very complimentary towards it since I find hugely enjoyable, but it is undoubtedly extremely silly. Here, they are a far more formidable foe, with Cornell and Symcox quietly pointing out that the ability to use black holes as a means of transport would in fact be quite impressive, and giving them the ability to create an artificial time line in order to reward their servant. Which is actually my only real criticism of ‘Seasons of Fear’, since based on what we know about the Nimon I’m frankly surprised that they’d bother. Nevertheless, this is a minor criticism (and, to be fair, a dramatic contrivance to establish the fact that Grayle supposedly caused the Doctor’s death on their last encounter) and the return of the Nimon is deeply satisfying. Amusingly, given that Grayle has boasted at length about his masters’ powers, the Doctor defeats them relatively easily, using his prior knowledge of them to block their time corridor and causing the ones in his TARDIS to be sucked out into the Vortex. Admittedly, he ends up getting sucked out with them, which is inconvenient, but for the most part Grayle causes him more trouble than the Nimon do.

With the Nimon remaining behind the scenes for most of the first three episodes, Sebastian Grayle fills in as villain of the piece, and he’s a great character. When he first appears near the beginning of Episode One to gloat over the Doctor’s death in Singapore, he seems like a clichéd megalomaniac who spouts hackneyed dialogue, but as the Doctor and Charley travel back in time to find out exactly what happened between them in Grayle’s past, he becomes a more interesting, deeply flawed character. He starts off in Roman times as an intense, impressionable young man, and becomes corrupted by the promise of power and the constant frustration of the Doctor’s interference. By Episode Two and London in 1055AD, he’s become bitter thanks to the drawbacks of longevity, with the carrot of true immortality in a better world dangled in front of him by the Nimon. Anger and resentment boil within him as he snarls, “I watched every wife fade before me into a crone.” By this point he’s extremely insecure, shouting, “Don’t turn your back on me for that short lived wench!” when the Doctor ignores him to tend Charley. In short, Grayle changes over time in interesting and believable ways. The Doctor sadly notes, “Time piles on top of him and kills everything good. Nobody should have to endure that” and later that “He’s changed, he’s become evil”, as well as telling him, “The Grayle I met in the temple of Mithras would not have acted as you do.” The difference in Grayle by Episode Four is such that ultimately, when he travels back in time to Roman Scotland, his younger self is horrified at what he will become, incredulous asking, “You hold women at the point of a weapon. How could I have come to that?” before killing his future self, changing the path he will take and undoing everything he would have done. Irritatingly, this results in another Big Finish paradox, but the tedious abundance of those at the time ‘Seasons of Fear’ is hardly the fault of Cornell and Symcox, and besides it ties into the Eighth Doctor and Charley story arc. Stephen Perring is perfectly cast in the role, proving to be a skillful actor capable of making Grayle constantly believable as his character develops over time.

On the subject of the Doctor and Charley, Cornell and Symcox use them extremely well, and although Charley is firmly ensconced for the most part in traditional companion role by asking the Doctor to explain the plot and needing to be rescued, the writers provide a great deal of witty dialogue for the pair (and as a matter of trivia, Cornell sneaks in an unobtrusive reference to his New Adventure ‘Love and War’ as the two of them reflect on a month spent with the Abbot of Felsecar researching Grayle’s family tree). Despite heavy criticism of Charley’s character in the past, ‘Seasons of Fear’ is the second story in a row in which I quite like her; she overenthusiastically suggests that the Doctor should shoot Grayle or catapult him away, to the disapproval of her friend who as usual favours more peaceful means, but she quickly realises that she has got carried away and more pragmatically, she suggests dropping him off somewhere where he can do no harm. It’s a very subtle thing that is difficult to describe, but the script here makes the difference between Charley being mouthy and obnoxious and Charley being excitable in a likeable way. It helps that there is a great deal of witty banter between them, such as when Charley asks the Doctor, “I assume you did your usual act of playing the fool and making him talk?”, to which he replies, “Do I do that?” She worriedly responds, “Erm, I always assumed you did!” Later, in a similar exchange, she describes London 1055 as “Another wonderful opportunity to wear a nice dress”, prompting the puzzled response, “Be a bit conspicuous, wouldn’t it?” She exasperatedly corrects him, “An opportunity for me!” Occasionally, Cornell’s tendency to give the Doctor overly self-aware dialogue comes to the fore, as he says “I’m the Doctor, I can’t do that kind of thing”, but for the most part the script sparkles. Charley’s mournful epitaph for him when she thinks he’s dead is “He smelt of honey. He always let me win at scrabble, and he always left his tea to cool for far too long before he drank it”, which borders on cloying but is delivered with just the right air of wistfulness by Fisher, and McGann’s intentionally cheesy line, “I’ve got through this whole business with declaring ‘the horns of a dilemma’ or ‘Holy cow!’” raises a smile.

The supporting characters also work well; Edward and Edith, cunning, worldly-wise monarchs, are great characters, very well acted by Lennox Greaves (making a swift return to the range following his splendid turn as Shaughnessy in ‘The Chimes of Midnight’) and Sue Wallace. The pair are great characters, insulting each other’s families in a good-natured fashion and generally getting some entertaining lines. Amusingly, not only is the Doctor an old friend of Edward, he’s also well-known to Edith, a fact that becomes evident from the moment he enters the court and she mutters, “Oh no, not him.” Later, he asks her, “Would my lady excuse me?” and she tartly replies, “Indeed. I have before…” and all of this is explained by the slightly tongue-in-cheek revelation that she’s pissed off because he accidentally accepted a past proposal of marriage from her and then left her at the alter.

The production of ‘Seasons of Fear’ is excellent, prolific director Gary Russell once more doing a fine job and getting the best from his actors. Especially noteworthy is Jane Elphinstone’s ominous, heart beat-like sound track which waxes and wanes with the drama to considerable effect. Finally, although ‘Seasons of Fear’ is a great stand-alone story that bodes well for Cornell’s forthcoming script for the new Doctor Who television series, it also works well as part of a larger whole in the context of the season. The appearance of a Dalek in Roman Britain is a great-unexpected cameo, which foreshadows ‘The Time of the Daleks’, but beyond that it sows the seeds for the season finale and the fortieth anniversary story that would follow. At one point Charley asks, “Zagreus?” to which the Doctor replies, “A character from a Gallifreyan nursery rhyme. But that’s not important.” He is of course, quite mistaken. The mysterious figure to whom the Doctor is recounting the story ultimately seems to be judging him, calmly informing him, “It is sad Doctor, but there is fault and blame in your actions” which also hints at things to come, but it is the ominous coda that is most foreboding sign, as something that speaks with Charley’s voice arrives and devours Lucy and Richard and claims that it shouldn’t be in this universe. It malevolently swears, “I’m coming for you Charlotte Pollard, and you, Doctor” as the final episode fades into silence…

Lawrence Conquest

After such a strong opening pair of stories for McGann’s second Big Finish season, it was inevitable that there’d be a bit of a dip in quality at some point. Seasons of Fear certainly isn’t poor, but compared to the stories it follows it does seem a little average.

To its credit Seasons does try to stretch the format a little, but these aren’t always entirely successful. The narration is enjoyable enough, but plunging us straight into the adventure makes for a rather dizzying experience. The decision to play Seasons as a Marinus-esque style story per episode format looks good on paper, but with the action always ending up a case of the Doctor trying to stop Grayle summoning his masters it soon becomes rather repetitive. Take out the background scenery and characters and the action in each episode is identical.

Stephen Perring does well as Grayle, convincing us with his centuries descent into madness. As for his ‘masters’ I feel as though I may be out of my depth here. Despite having experienced 99% of the Doctors television outings, Seasons of Fear manages to sequelise one of the few stories I know nothing about. Thankfully the aliens themselves work well enough for me, and though some of the scientific background is rather odd I can only presume that this is faithful to the creatures first appearance.

Being around the halfway point of the season makes this an awkward release for the range ‘dippers’. Unless you are fully aware of Charley’s background story you’ll be struggling to understand just what’s going on at times, and unless you are prepared to listen to Neverland then the ending will make no sense whatsoever.

While its novel ideas may be all superficial, Seasons of Fear is an entertaining and enjoyable runaround, with some generally strong performances. A step down from the quality of Invaders From Mars and The Chimes of Midnight, but a huge improvement on The Shadow of the Scourge. Good, but not great.

Simon Catlow

'For once your mockery does not infuriate me Doctor, this time I am the one in control...'

When the Doctor finally brings Charley to Singapore for the New Year's Eve celebrations in 1930, his growing sense of unease about her continued existence is brought sharply into focus when he meets a man named Sebastian Grayle who claims that he and the Doctor are old adversaries. That he defeated the Doctor in the past, killing him finally. With the revelation that his Masters' have now gained control over the Earth, the Doctor and Charley depart on a desperate quest through time and space to try and find out what has happened to the Earth and to the Doctor himself...

Seasons Of Fear marks the third release of the 2002 Eighth Doctor 'season' of audios and sees the return of Paul Cornell, writing here with Caroline Symcox, to the world of Doctor Who, with what he describes in the authors notes as "an attempt at a very traditional Doctor Who story", an aim which is in stark contrast to his first Doctor Who audio - the New Adventures influenced play The Shadow Of The Scourge - but the result is very pleasing indeed.

With all the hints that followed Charley's introduction in Storm Warning, there has been a sense that her survival there has caused an effect, the consequences of which we the listener have not yet become aware of. Seasons Of Fear capitalises on this by bringing the Doctor and Charley to her intended destination of Singapore at New Years Eve, and Cornell and Symcox really convey the Doctors' doubts about Charley well through a sense of discomfort which resonates well through the Doctor's narrative sentences. The opening of episode one is very effective, mainly through setting up a sense of mystery via a series of questions posed, the answers of which will be revealed throughout the drama. Who is Sebastian Grayle? Why does he hate the Doctor so much? And just who are the power behind him who granted him immortality?

The story is structured in a manner similar to stories such as The Keys Of Marinus and The Chase where there is a central goal which is achieved through a series of linked episodes. Seasons Of Fear takes the Doctor and Charley to a Roman fort, the court of Edward the Confessor, Buckinghamshire and through hundreds of years of time. This type of story inevitably means that there will be a lot of moving between setting for each episode which has the knock on effect that none of the supporting characters can be as well developed as they might have been had the story dwelt on a particular area for longer, but it does contribute a sense of urgency to the proceedings as the story gathers pace towards it's conclusion. It also gives the drama a sense of fun too, which while never really the focus of the story, is always there underneath and provides a nice counter-balance to the story's drama.

Another aspect of Seasons Of Fear which was very well handled were the links to the stories around it. The referencing to the revelations of The Chimes Of Midnight and the foreshadowing of future events (including a very brief cameo by a Dalek!) really adds to the sense that there is an ongoing story here and events are building towards something big in the future.

Paul McGann continues to captivate as the Doctor with another confident performance, as the Doctor throws himself completely into the spirit of the chase for Grayle's origins. His confrontation with Grayle at the start of the story is one of the most memorable individual scenes that the Eighth Doctor has featured in so far in the performed medium, and with the ensuing mystery it really gives McGann something to sink his teeth into and the performance reflects this. The story also makes use of Paul McGann narrating several parts of the story, which works well as a device to link the sections together and it's also wonderfully reminiscent of how the TV Movie opened (indeed the opening narration seems to deliberately echo the narration of the movie), and intriguingly leads into a scene (with an unpublicised appearance by Rising Damp's Don Warrington) which seems to foreshadow the future events nicely.

India Fisher once more shows precisely why she was such a good choice for the role of Charley with another exceptional performance, and although her role in the story isn't as active as it might have been, she performs admirably. Cornell and Symcox bring about doubts in Charley herself about the consequences of her surviving the R101 crash and Fisher is particularly good in these scenes as she brings some real emotion to the part.

The Doctor comments at one point that Grayle is a worthy adversary, and thanks to the excellent performance of Stephen Perring, this is very true. As the Doctor and Charley travel through time they encounter different versions of Grayle at those stages, and Perring makes each a little bit more developed according to the script so that by the end the listener can really believe that the man so bitter against the Doctor was created from such a humble beginning.

The rest of the cast are limited to more minor roles, but they serve the script well and director Gary Russell ensures that they are all convincing and add to the drama of the story. Lennox Greaves suffers a little here due to the memory of his towering performance in The Chimes Of Midnight still lingering, but he makes a strong impression in his role as Edward here. Robert Curbishley and Stephen Fewell both put in good performances in multiple roles, but the stand out performance of the rest of the cast comes from Justine Mitchell as Lucy Martin.

When Grayle's Masters' identity is finally revealed, it is very much a surprise, and it's a credit to Paul Cornell and Caroline Symcox that the creatures are as effective as they are (all things considered) and also to the fact that it does come as a bit of a shock given the unexpected nature of them. Robert Curbishley voices them incredibly well with the sound design giving them a potent presence and a sense of danger too.

Gareth Jenkins' sound design is good. With the story spanning multiple settings, he really creates a distinctive setting for each one and because they are also convincing, it adds a lot to the story too. The music for Seasons Of Fear is excellent. Project: Twilight co-composer Jane Elphinston returns to compose the incidental music for Seasons Of Fear, with it adding a haunting feeling to the story which is totally in keeping with the drama and giving it an extra layer.

Seasons Of Fear continues the superb quality of this years Eighth Doctor 'season' with an exciting story filled with good performances, plenty of surprises and with an intriguing final scene which will leave every listener wondering what the consequences will be, it's very memorable and constantly entertaining, capturing all the qualities which make Doctor Who as good as it is.

Trey Korte

Well, considering how little I liked Paul Cornell's last audio, "The Shadow of the Scourge," I am pleased to say that Seasons of Fear is excellent.

I love historicals, and with Seasons of Fear, we get four different historical periods, along with some good education. Mithraism and Edward the Confessor are just two of the historical items documented and used in an excellent way. When I say that I wanted to read more about Mithraism and Edward & Edith, I hope that Paul Cornell and Caroline Symcox take it as a compliment.

The plot, similar to other Eighth Doctor stories, revolves around time and the paradoxes that are inherent within time travel. I like these types of stories, but I'm concerned that it will be overkill. Hopefully, after the upcoming "NEverland", we'll be able to move on a bit.

There are some delicious twists and turns including a "BIG ONE" that, on hindsight, seems totally obvious, but only in the sense of the murderer's identity in Agatha Christie stories seems obvious. A big congratulations to Paul and Caroline on keeping some big secrets (and everyone else involved.)

The performances are good, with Paul and India in particular fine form. I think perhaps that Grayle isn't as sinister as he could be...he comes across as pathetic and whiny, but that may have been the intent. The problem with Grayle is that he doesn't really invoke fear or menace, although we are told he has all this power.

My one criticism with some of the writing is with the self-awareness of the Doctor. When he starts saying "Well I'm the Doctor and I don't do that sort of thing" and other similar comments, he just appears really self-important and suffering from delusions of grandeur. It just reeks of cartoon super-heroes...I realize that it's how Paul Cornell views the Doctor, the whole 'never cruel or cowardly" thing, but to actually have the Doctor say those things about himself...it's just a bit obnoxious. Espcially as it's easy to come up with many examples where the Doctor has behaved in a way that he says he hasn't. It makes the Doctor a liar to say he doesn't engage in violent solutions when he has, repeatedly. He doesn't *glorify* in violence, but that doesn't mean he's never used it. However, nowhere does "Seasons of Fear" suffer from the overt sentimentality that made "Shadow of the Scourge" so cringe-worthy to listen to.

Overall, Seasons of Fear is wonderful story in its own right, but also an important one for the overall McGann-arc, especially with Charley's role. It seems that Big Finish has some major "Holy Sh*t" moments in the near future.

And Seasons of Fear must get special mention for being the first time the Doctor and Companion have used the word, "orgy."