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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Moons of Vulpana


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 851 6 (CD),
978 1 78178 852 3 (download)
Release Date: 30 June 2019

The Doctor has returned Mags, formerly of the Psychic Circus, to her native world: Vulpana. Not the savage Vulpana that Mags was taken from, but Vulpana in an earlier era. The Golden Millennium – when the Four Great Wolf Packs, each devoted to one of the planet’s four moons, oversaw the height of Vulpanan civilisation. A time when the noblest families of the Vulpanan aristocracy found themselves in need of new blood. A golden age – that’s about to come to a violent end…!

Though Mags appeared in just one television serial, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, in a way the story of her kind runs right through the Seventh Doctor era. Creatures like her were a recurring presence throughout Sylvester McCoy’s time on the programme – from the Kangs of Paradise Towers to the Cheetah People of Survival. The Kangs were young women reduced to living like pack animals. Fenric called his servants “wolves”. Josiah and Control struggled to elevate themselves above their baser natures in Ghost Light, while numerous characters found themselves succumbing to animalistic bloodlust and physical transformation in Survival. The Cheetah People howled like wolves, as did the dog-like Fifi in The Happiness Patrol – though her owner, Helen A, referenced a different Margaret altogether!

The Moons of Vulpana covers some of the same hunting ground as Survival – though arguably more effectively, without the cuddly Cheetah costumes. Both stories contrast the savage and the noble, the fearful and the beautiful aspects of the predators in question. Here the Seventh Doctor takes Mags (Jessica Martin) back to an earlier point in the history of her planet in an attempt to cure her ills. The Fifth Doctor tried a similar technique with Nyssa and her home world in Primeval, though on this occasion the Time Lord hopes that his companion will stop hating and fearing her biological heritage if given a chance to see her people’s aristocratic past. Best-laid plans and all that…

More so than Survival, which only briefly touched upon the subject, Emma Reeves’s story also discusses the morality of hunting for sport. Nobles such as the matriarchal Ulla (Nimmy March) and her competitive elder sons Issak (Peter Bankole) and Tob (Sean Knopp) trot out the same excuses as we are used to on our planet – that it’s “traditional” and that the “vermin” would overrun the land if their numbers were not kept in check in this manner. Here, though, the “vermin” are sentient beings. While Issak and Tob jostle amusingly for the position of alpha male and the affections of “Lady Mags”, Jaks (Irfan Shamji), the runt of the litter, takes a more surprising path.

Though Vulpana’s past is well realised, its present remains something of an enigma. In the opening episode, Mags says that she doesn’t have a home, because her people were “driven from Vulpana years ago.” This is despite the fact that both Captain Cook (in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy) and this release’s back-cover blurb (quoted at the top of the page) claim that Mags was taken from that very planet. Maybe the diaspora took place after Mags’s departure, or, perhaps more likely, was under way when Captain Cook found her and saved her from being shot with a silver bullet. If we assume that as much time has passed for Mags as it has done for Jessica Martin since the events of Greatest Show, then that was more than 30 years ago. The Doctor’s reference to the Vulpanans’ refugee status ties in quite well with the comic strip Hill of Beans, in which Vulpana is depicted as an occupied world.

The finished product holds together well, the two-and-a-quarter-hour story packing the two CDs almost to capacity, leaving less than 20 minutes to spare for interviews and isolated music. The plot is only really hampered by a few meandering moments and some awkward solo scenes for the Doctor, during which he has to talk to the TARDIS or to himself in order to explain to the listener what is going on. The familiar classic series pattern of capture and escape is repeated at least once too often. Apart from that, though, The Moons of Vulpana is a hoot. Or should that be a howl?


Richard McGinlay

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