‘The Butcher of Brisbane’
Written by Marc Platt, directed by Ken Bentley
Released: June 2012
The TARDIS is drawn off course by time travel experiments in the 53rd Century. Facing an evil that he had thought forever in his past, the Doctor enters the bloody world of Magnus Greel, a villain whom he had defeated in his previous life in Victorian London. However, the Doctor must be careful to insure that history plays through its proper course while protecting his companions at the same time.
One of the most celebrated of the classic Doctor Who televised stories, Talons of Weng Chiang is a program of immense popularity. The plot of Robert Holmes’s script was rather thin but the atmosphere and character was boundless. A time travelling war criminal trapped in Victorian London, Magnus Greel poses as a deity Weng Chiang. Protected by a devilish gnome Mr. Sin, he draws wayward women of the night to the sewers in order to suck their life from them using future technology.
There were a few scattered hints at the world that Greel had escaped which Marc Platt drew from, developing a lush nightmarish realm. Nyssa and Turlough are separated by the Zigma energy and disappear three years in the past, lost in the tundra as bodies fall from the sky, sent there by Greel’s scientific adviser and resident madman, Findecker. Turlough and Nyssa manage to get involved with the underground, a group of journalists determined to expose Greel for the power-mad dictator that he is.
Three years later, the Doctor and Tegan arrive to find their lost traveling companions deeply entrenched in Greel’s inner circle with Nyssa lined up to marry him! The Doctor must carefully extract his friends from their situation, but before he can act he is captured by cybernetically enhanced dingoes with a basic intelligence and brought before Findecker who seems to know far more about the Doctor than he lets on. Facing gut-wrenching torture, the Doctor resorts to his wits and escapes his capture by plying the dingo named Chopper with sweets.
For me, the Butcher of Brisbane is one of the most enjoyable Doctor Who stories by Big Finish to date. I had very low expectations (a prequel to one of the finest classic Who adventures?), but the finished product is so polished and clever that it is a classic in its own right. The Doctor shines in this story, acting witty, clever, reserved and cannily wise all at once. It could be one of Peter Davison’s strongest outings as the Doctor. His interactions with Chopper the cyborg dingo are touching (I’m a big dog-lover) and side-splitting.
The supporting cast also comes out strong as Turlough and Nyssa play the espionage game in a not dissimilar fashion to Jamie and Victoria in the classic The Enemy of the World. There are some stark parallels to that story, I found, as Greel has put himself up as the best hope the world has for peace while secretly building his own private army for a massive war, one which the Doctor has already witnessed.
Actor Angus Wright is captivating as Greel, a charismatic madman who thinks that a doll using the brain of a pig is a good gift for a child. There are so many solid gold moments in this adventure, but when Mr. Sin made his entrance as a bizarre birthday present, my mind leaped out the window.
The final part of a 5th Doctor trilogy (with The Emerald Tiger and The Jupiter Conjunction before it), The Butcher of Brisbane is a thrilling story that draws from the rich history of classic Doctor Who to tell a new adventure that is so unique yet nostalgic at the same time.
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