Trail of the White Worm/The Oseidon Adventure
Written by: Alan Barnes, directed by: Ken Bentley
Stories 1.06 and 1.07
Released May, June 2012
The finale to the first season of Tom Baker stories for Big Finish is absolutely absurd, convoluted and strange. In short, it is ideally fitting of the Fourth Doctor’s middle period. The TARDIS arrives in the quaint village of Dark Peak Gap where Leela and the Doctor become prey to a pack of hounds led by some villagers looking for a lost girl. They suspect that their Julie has met a foul end at the mercy of some mysterious creature which is too terrible to even speak of. The creature is of course the worm from the title, a massive creature from another dimension hiding in the human form of the eccentric Demesne whom the Doctor is quite taken by. Nearby, Leela meets the more eccentric but far more destructive Colonel Spindleton (voiced by Michael Cochrane from the TV serial Ghost Light) who utilizes a radio controlled tank to chase trespassers off his property. He spars with Leela until the noble savage gets the better of him and infiltrates his mansion.
Together, the pair of them hunt down the worm, following its spoor. A creature that has hidden in the area for over 300 years, the worm is of great interest to Spindleton and the strange visitor, a charred and damaged Master, fresh from his encounter with the Doctor in Gallifrey in Deadly Assassin. The Master has great plans for the worm, which opens wormholes in space. Using the creature, he makes the way clear for an invasion force from the planet Oseidon. The Kralls (last seen in The Android Invasion back in 1975) once more are determined to lay waste to humanity and replace it with an android army to create a new home.
Trail of the White Worm is a bit cobbled together and despite his appearance on the cover the Master barely features in the narrative at all. Most of the story is spent watching the Doctor unravel the mystery of the worm and getting eaten by it (which is quite humorous). In the end, it serves as a precursor to the The Oseidon Adventure, a two part finale that is even more overly complicated.
The Kralls have an army of tanks which never seem to do anything, the Master is working with them, but is almost immediately dispatched and placed in a jail cell and the Doctor is once more processed by the mind transfer machine he was tortured with back in 1975.
The Master has multiple plans that are all kind of silly (who cleared the ZO radiation scheme?) and though at first it is exciting to hear of their inclusion, the soldiers of U.N.I.T. are not much use at all. Added to this the jogging back and forth through the worm hole from Dark Peak to a model village on Oseidon (again last seen in Android Invasion) and the multiple androids of the Master and the Doctor and my head started to spin. In all honesty, I had to listen to this one a few times to really get it and then I could concentrate on the performances rather than being frustrated by the plot.
All that said, this is still a fun romp (in the truest sense) and Geoffrey Beevers is absolutely superb as the Master, his every line of dialog dripping with sinister intent. Tom Baker is positively giddy and delivers some great lines such as when the Kraals examine Colonel Spindleton’s demands for cooperation, a kind of super conservative wish list that abolishes free milk at schools and the abolishment of the BBC (which is when, if you are keen, you can hear Baker barking with laughter, ‘You should be so lucky!’). It’s a mad lark with killer robots, scheming aliens, double crosses and Leela riding a thoroughbred named Pink Gin into battle.
Trail of the White Worm and The Oseidon Adventure can each be ordered from The Book Depository with free shipping worldwide by clicking on the link below: