The second story in the seventh Fourth Doctor Adventures series is a fun take on the “character trapped in a convincing dream, can they escape back to reality?” cliché, that serves Leela well as a character, which is good as she’s so often just a generic savage in so many of these releases! Let’s take a closer look…
When attacked on an alien world, Leela falls unconscious… only to wake in another time, another place.
She is in the Crowmarsh Institute on Earth, in London, in 1978, and everyone is calling her Doctor Marshall. They tell her the world she has known is but a fantasy, a delusion, and that this place is the one that is real.
Surrounded by familiar faces on unfamiliar people, Leela knows what is true and what is false. But how long can she believe when everyone around her says it’s a dream? What’s really happening here?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Doctor (Tom Baker) – The Doctor is helpless when he sees Leela carted off to a mysterious pyramid, not knowing what harsh non-reality awaits her…
Leela (Louise Jameson) – Leela is taken by mysterious robots and wakes in 70s London… is she really Dr. Leela Marshall?
Jennifer (Cathy Tyson) – A spaceship pilot who ends up captured in the same manor as Leela, but does she have the same strength of will to resist the dream?
Colin Marshall (Damian Lynch) – Marshall was killed in the battle with The Master and the Rocket Men… wasn’t he? He certainly wasn’t a regular human in 70s London… surely?
There’s something off with The Doctor’s head that makes me think they didn’t blend the two pictures well enough…
This is a story all about Leela and her ability to break from a dream world and get back to reality, and it’s a good! Given the over-used trope I could criticise it for being lazy, but I really enjoyed my listen. Tom Baker as an untrustworthy Doctor in her dream was fun, Leela’s love interest from a few series’ ago was a good touch (and a rare bit of Big Finish-created continuity being referenced) and generally it was a good “will she break free in time” story, rather than “which is real?”… given we know full well which is real (to be fair we also known full well she’ll survive, but you know what I mean!)
Jennifer, the new character going through the same thing, was a good idea as she was actually in jeopardy, and the Doctor’s frustration at not being able to save her at the end was a nice touch. To be honest there isn’t much else to talk about, it spends the hour building this new world and slowly teasing the Leela might want to stay there instead of coming back to reality, and it doesn’t even waste much time after she recovers.
The only bad is, of course, lack of originality. Like I said it doesn’t hurt the story too much, but there is a big feeling of “seen it all before” (well… seen and heard it all before, I guess) Hell, old pyramids and an alien computer-generated reality were done just last year in TV Doctor Who! (though given how far in advance these are written and recorded, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this was actually done first…)
The big one is the sort of return of Marshall, from earlier Leela-featured Fourth Doctor adventures story Requiem for the Rocket Men / Death Match.
Apart from that there are just similar feeling stories, but I won’t bother with that given the common tropes on offer (well, apart from the one in the paragraph above…)
The Crowmarsh Experiment then is a reusing of a pretty bog-standard sci-fi trope, but a good one. Entertaining for it’s runtime and a good showcase of Leela, you could do far worse than this in the FDA range…