‘The Emerald Tiger’
In the jungles of Calcutta, a strange curse has been passed down, the curse of the Emerald Tiger. Much like the mark of the werewolf it turns the victim into an animal, but unlike that myth, the tiger eventually solidifies into a mass of jade. Nyssa has fallen under the curse and in order to save her, the Doctor must unravel this mystery and brave the land of impossible jeweled creatures, and a gun-happy English rogue.
Edwards fully admits that The Emerald Tiger is his ‘big budget film’ version of Doctor Who and it shows. The Doctor lands the TARDIS in Calcutta, 1926 to see an historic cricket match only to get swept up in an amazing adventure almost at once. A man is driven into throws of violence and charges through the throng of commuters at the train depot where the TARDIS has become parked. He is shot dead by the devious Major Cyril Haggard but not before marking Nyssa who immediately falls into a painful coma.
The TARDIS is hoisted into a nearby train as luggage. The train has been purchased for a private trip by Lady Adela Forster. Finding an ideal opportunity to evade the police, Haggard jumps onto the train, as do Tegan and Turlough who are determined to get the TARDIS back. Unfortunately between them and the time vessel is a massive emerald tiger with jeweled eyes and claws.
Close behind, the Doctor gives chase after the train via hot air balloon, turning the burner on its side to act as a makeshift jet engine, and attempts to gain access to the train and while he manages to rescue Turlough and Lady Forster, he fails to save Tegan whose car has become separated from the others and crashes into a vast crevasse. It’s a very moving moment and one in which the Doctor succumbs to grief over the believed death of his friend. Of course when she re-appears, the cliffhanger is strangely a cry of ‘Tegan?!’
But just imagine one of those moments happening on screen! It’s clearly impossible and can only be achieved in this audio format. That kind of took me out of the story at first as this adventure was such a rollicking whirlwind of action, but the writing and performances were so strong that it became lots of fun. Rather than a traditional dip into the past, this was something wholly other.
Along with pulling out all the stops in creating a blockbuster story, Barnaby Edwards also took inspiration from Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Haggard’s works and Indian folklore. It’s all done with adoration and it shows. The fantastical moments are very moving and the setting is so firmly established by the sound masters at Big Finish that you’d think you were in Calcutta.
As a Fifth Doctor story, this works very well as it features the Doctor unwittingly thrust into a situation where he is in over his head and separates the crew into their own stories. Beyond the first part there’s sadly not much for Turlough to do and Nyssa spends a lot of time in a dream-like state, but Tegan fares the worst. Earning the ire of Major Haggard, she becomes the object of a million she-devil curses.
Of all the cast members, I think that Janet Fielding’s voice has changed the most, but she performs with such gusto that I can forgive it. After all, Peter Davison sounds like he goes to bed at night with a pack of Silk Cut in his mouth!
A fanciful high adventure tale, The Emerald Tiger is an unusual Doctor Who story, but in this case that makes it a lot of fun as well. I have enjoyed almost all of the Davison Big Finish installments. While not as colorfully written as the Colin Baker stories, they have an intensity and character all their own.
The Emerald Tiger can be ordered directly from The Book Depository, with free worldwide shipping.