Doctor Who

Starring: Peter Davison
Big Finish Productions
ISBN 1 903654 29 7
Available now

The Doctor and Turlough arrive in Brazil, 2080, in time for the Rio de Janeiro carnival. While they expect to behold all manner of strange and exotic sights, the presence of werewolves comes as something of a surprise...

The curious synchronicity that so often affects Doctor Who fiction in its various media strikes again. Last month was Brigadier month, with the Doctor encountering a 21st-century Lethbridge-Stewart both on audio and in print. This time the Fifth Doctor faces a canine conundrum mere weeks before taking on the vulpine villains of Nick Walters' novel, Superior Beings.

However, the werewolves of Loups-Garoux depart radically from the archetypes perpetuated by movies and TV. Instead of the usual tale of a helpless human being transformed into a ferocious beast, writer Marc Platt gives us werewolves who face problems of their own, including such mundane concerns as fending off unwanted suitors and caring for an ailing child. Like the vampires in the novels Goth Opera and Vampire Science, Platt's werewolves possess a viable - though secret - subculture, and the Doctor is quite prepared to help them rather than destroy them. The only wolf who is regarded as a real threat is the ageless Pieter Stubbe (richly enunciated by Nicky Henson). However, Platt does not explain how the Doctor can justify allowing the other werewolves to live, since they too presumably feed on human victims.

There's a distinctly mythological flavour to this story, which defies rational scientific explanation, and which sits a little oddly within the Doctor Who universe, even in light of the various vampire stories that have preceded it. In addition to some native Indian spirituality, there are copious cunning references back to other myths and legends including, of course, the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Even the TARDIS, which is likened by Turlough to a magical doorway fuelled by the imagination, seems like the stuff of fairy tales.

In only his second Big Finish story, Mark Strickson recaptures his 1980s portrayal of Turlough extremely well, aided by a script that does not overlook the character's inherent selfishness. The cast also includes a couple of veteran guest stars from the TV series. Eleanor (City of Death, Revelation of the Daleks) Bron is appropriately noble as noblewoman Ileana de Santos. Meanwhile Burt (Four to Doomsday) Kwouk plays the scientist Hayashi, a similar role to the one he played in Dirk Maggs' radio version of Superman.

What big ideas Mr Platt has. All the better to entertain you with.

Richard McGinlay