Audio Club: The Land of the Dead

It’s time for another Main Range episode for the Audio Club! This one is starring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa, The Land of the Dead.

You can purchase it on Big Finish’s website, find the CD on Amazon, or listen for free on Spotify and Apple Music if you’re a subscriber!

Once you’ve listened, talk about it below! Even if you listened to it before and just want to discuss it - dive right in! Just please use spoiler tags where appropriate.

Everyone who participates will get a badge! :medal_military:

Just for fun, add your rating here:

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3 Likes

I knew this one was coming, and have been dreading it slightly. I love all of the first three, for different reasons, but this one sits squarely as my least favourite of the first 50.

I first heard Land of the Dead many years ago and slated it in the personal wiki I was using to keep track at the time. I went back and listened to it again a few months ago, in the hope that, with my much greater experience of Big Finish and supposed maturity, I would be able to find more to like about it. Sadly, I didn’t.

I still find this release to be a conundrum. On the whole, I like stories with 5 and Nyssa. There’s nothing horribly wrong with the sound design or production. The location is intriguing. But I just don’t like it. I could go on about how I don’t believe the monsters, bizarrrely-reanimated fossil dinosaurs, but they are hardly the worst in Doctor Who. I could point out that the action sequences seem oddly random, or that the architecture makes no sense, or that I never feel any empathy for the characters but, again, there are stories I do like with much worse. Eventually I have come to the conclusion that this is just not a story for me.

To my slight shame, I once button-holed the writer, Steve Cole, at a signing for some of his Astrosaurs kids books, to talk about this release. He was very pleasant and professional, but clearly wanted the angry nerd to go away so he could interact with his real audience. :rofl:

3 Likes

This was the story which had a map of the house in the CD insert so they obviously thought it needed explaining!

2 Likes

Wow. I never realised that. I guess that’s the trouble with listening to MP3s or via the Big Finish app. I went back to look at my CD to check and, eventually, I found it hiding behind the second disc. The floorplan is nothing like I imagined when I listened to the story :roll_eyes:

6 Likes

Ok now I’m intrigued as to why an audio story needs a map!

3 Likes

This one is a mess. The sound design is an assault on the ears when trying to depict the action scenes with the silly monster. The depiction of indigenous people is reductive & cliched. The location makes no sense (hence the inclusion of a map). & one character is so obviously a substitute for Tegan. The relationship between Nyssa & 5th Doctor is fine I suppose, but that’s me trying to find something of merit here.

2 Likes

Monica! I loved Monica but, yes, she is obviously Tegan.

2 Likes

Love Tegan. Hate Monica.

Conversely, I hate Tegan. Always have - and my wife loathes her!

I thought Monica was fun :slight_smile: (but it’s been a good few years since I last listened to this).

1 Like

I think this one is okay. The setting is nice. The monsters are okay. I thought the story between the guest cast was kind of meh. I just finished it and I feel like I have nothing to say about it.

2.5/5

3 Likes

I think I liked this one but mainly for the pairing of the 5th Doctor and Nyssa - who is my favourite classic series companion.

I have it rated 3/5 on the site and I think that reflects my overall memory of it pretty well.

It does suffer from ‘describe what I’m seeing’ dialogue but when you make the monster a roaring animated pile of dinosaur bones, you’re asking for trouble.

4 Likes

This one is… fine. It’s not great, it’s not completely awful. Every time I listen to it, I enjoy it in the moment and it sort of sticks in the memory. If you want to do dinosaurs, then just do dinosaurs. I don’t know if the monsters would be better if this were on TV or not. I like the Doctor/Nyssa pairing though it’s not a huge favorite of mine. They still work well together. I’ll give more thoughts when I actually listen to this.

5 Likes

Personally I quite enjoy this one! It’s actually my second favorite of the first five (though there’s a significant gap between it and my favorite of that category, Whispers of Terror). I just think it really works as a base-under-siege story with great atmosphere and interesting monsters. I will say I don’t feel confident at all that the handling of the Native American characters and their beliefs was done with suitable respect or research (but I have also not done the requisite research). And I think putting the skull of Joseph Merrick on the cover was in incredibly bad taste.

4 Likes

I really do love the little intro track “And now the welcome return of Peter Davison in Doctor Who”. I bet it was very well received at the time. I’ve just finished Episode 1. I remember this having a slow start and being a bit boring at first. I seem to have been right. It’s really the second half I somewhat enjoy. I think the best part of this is the Doctor and Nyssa, with Davison and Sutton at least sounding like they’re trying. The guest cast is just uninteresting and quite wooden. The accents aren’t terrible (I’ve heard much worse from Big Finish), but there’s just no emotion. I agree that the native perspective could’ve been done a lot better, but for 1999 in a British production, I do give them props for at least trying. I don’t know if the Classic Series would’ve done it any better. For some reason I imagine Brett looking like Van Statton from Dalek. The cliffhanger for Episode 1 is probably the weakest in the Main Range thus far and probably could’ve used another take.

5 Likes

I remembered this one not being one of my favourites among the first few BF audios, and upon relistening, I realised I was right. Here are my thoughts:

Part 1 of this story slowly but surely builds tension and atmosphere as Five and Nyssa land in Alaska and slowly get involved in the strange events going on there, all the while we slowly learn about the ambitious Shaun Brett, his right-hand man Tulung, and their ongoing project.

The rest of the story kind of falls apart as a very uneven pace, murky action sequences, and silly, reanimated dinosaur skeleton monster thingies disrupt the initially promising atmosphere. The scope of the story remains very limited, and the audio format doesn’t do its ideas justice.

Stephen Cole tries to inject some environmentalist and cultural themes into the plot (such as Native American beliefs), but they feel a bit heavy-handed. The Permians as a very evolved pre-dinosaur species is a good idea on paper, but the execution makes them fall pretty flat.

Despite some dramatic build-up, Part 4 never goes anywhere interesting and remains a bit flat and disappointing. The climax comes and goes with a little fanfare.

The dialogue is clunky in places, particularly when describing the Permians.

Nyssa was never my favourite companion, but she and Five make for a pretty well-oiled TARDIS team, and Sutton slips back into the role with no problems. Peter Davison is as reliable as ever in the lead.

Shaun Brett is arguably the most compelling villain in the Main Range so far, and the story puts a great effort into exploring his motivations, emotions, and ambitions. Tulung is a great sidekick as well, even if Neil Roberts’ accent can feel a bit forced at times. Andrew Fettes, as Gaborik, suffers from the same problem. Overall, the supporting cast ends up being pretty forgettable.

The snowy and remote Alaskan setting makes for a great landscape for a Doctor Who story! The sound design helps to bring it to life effectively, but the effect wears off after a while since a lot of the story is set indoors.

Rating: 5.5/10

6 Likes

I pretty much agree with @MrColdStream on this one.
I think the story would be much more suited for either TV, book or comic - the inclusion of the map also tells me that a visual element is lacking from the storytelling.
Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton are as on point with their characters as the ever are.
It is a story full of potential that never quite gets fulfilled.
2/5 :star:

4 Likes

I’m in the middle of Episode 2 and yeah, I can see that now. :laughing:

Okay, finished it. There are definitely some interesting ideas bandying about in the story. Natives versus whites, environmental ideas about pillaging the land of its resources, childhood guilt, the sins of the fathers, the Permian extinction, echoes of Jurassic Park, even threads of almost Lovecraftian madness. The problem is that there are probably too many ideas all kind of thrown in a bundle and tied to the end of a stick. I would rather Stephen Cole had maybe picked one or two and explored them in more depth.

I can definitely see Monica being a Tegan replacement, and Tulung feels like the typical Davison-era substitute companion (in an era that had too many companions to begin with). There’s no real villain to this story and I do commend this for attempting to give the guest cast nuanced characters with interesting backstories. The problem is that none of the guest cast really seems to be trying. The characters are decently written, but they’re acted so woodenly. Others have commented that this would work much better as TV, prose or comic. And I agree. The main concept of the “Permians” requires either a true visual medium (TV or Comic), or something like prose where things can be described independently of the dialogue.

I love dinosaurs! They were probably my first major obsession. And Doctor Who (my current major obsession), does dinosaurs so rarely. On paper, the Permian creatures are fascinating. In practice, and especially on audio, they’re bog-standard monsters. A much better dinosaur story is Dinosaurs on a Spaceship on TV or The Curator’s Egg on audio. I would love for Big Finish (or even the main show) to try their hand at dinosaurs again. If they can be done well, you’d potentially have a classic on your hands.

This isn’t a terrible story. It’s got a slow start, too many ideas, a somewhat wooden guest cast, but it at least tries. Davison is very good in it and Nyssa is decent enough (she was never my absolute favorite Fifth Doctor companion). I applaud the risk it takes. It at least tries to do something interesting. On paper, I can see how this got the green light. The final product just doesn’t quite stick the landing.

4 Likes

“Nysserrrr” oh, BF ‘American’ accents, you’ve gotta love em! :rofl::rofl:

Unfortunately this audio leaves me quite cold (ha ha). It’s certainly not the dullest Five audio, but it’s by far not my favourite. It’s just kind of average, and a lot of the moralising over colonialism is pretty run of the mill for a DW story. I don’t have anything else to say really. It was fine, and that’s probably why I don’t remember it

3 Likes

Meh. I always get this one mixed up with the significantly better Winter for the Adept to the point that if you asked me for the plot of this one, I’d probably give you the plot of the other one. This one’s just kinda boring. That’s it.

2 Likes