The Fifth Doctor lost stories rocket on then, as we get a very of-era story set on an alien world that has coincidentally copied Tudor London for their city, which would’ve been handy at the time for existing sets and costumes! Involving an old friend of Tegans and some body snatching, it’s got a lot going on, but is it good, or should it have stayed on the cutting room floor? … Wait, cutting room floor doesn’t make any sense, it was just never commissioned, erm… never mind.
When a newspaper reporter goes missing, the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa uncover a case of alien abduction. The trail leads them to the planet Luparis, and a city that appears to be a replica of Tudor era London.
What are the monsters that lurk in the shadows? And what is the terrible secret at the heart of Luparis? To save a world, the Doctor must try and defeat the evil plans of Queen Zafira.
And one of her plans is to marry him…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
The story starts off feeling like it’s going to be another one of the Fifth Doctor’s less than interesting stories, having a Tudor England setting and involving some court politics going on, but it does get good. The Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa go searching for Tegan’s friend Mike Bretherton (Toby Hadoke) and end up on an alien world that has copied Tudor London to a tee, confusing everyone. The Doctor soon gets wrapped up in court politics that includes him being forced to marry Queen Zafira (Jacqueline Pearce) and therefore gets on the bad side of Lord Zellenger (Dan Starkley), one of the Queen’s two existing husbands.
Meanwhile Nyssa and Tegan run into a group of insectoid creatures, one of whom is Mike Bretherton, revealing that his body had been swapped. This is where we get to the big reveal, the people in this fake London are all Hexagora, a race of nomadic travelling insects who are caught on this planet because a sudden shift in climate has made it impossible for their bodies to survive, and so they’ve stolen human bodies instead, but this has cut off their ability to dip into their own race memory to learn how to migrate in large groups away to another planet. Sort of a catch-22. It’s also implied that Zellenger’s raging jealously and Zafira’s other husband Jezzavar’s interest in making Nyssa the new Queen all come from becoming “too human”, as these sorts of actions just didn’t happen in the race’s history. It was an interesting twist, honestly, and I’d actually forgot it for the most part heading into this re-listen.
Eventually the humans-in-Hexagoran-bodies attack the palace as The Doctor reunites with Tegan and Nyssa, eventually the three convincing Queen Zafira that she could access the race memory by returning to her body and soon it’s all fixed. It’s kind of a non-ending in that it’s not some big showdown with explosions like you get in a lot of Who stories, but it worked well enough.
For a story featuring a lot of deformed bug-like creatures, there sure is a lack of deformed bug-like creatures on the cover…
My only gripe is how exposition is done in this story. Most of it is given by Hexagoran Astorius (Sean Brosnan) and The Doctor literally having a sit down and a talk, or the two having a walk around the lab and a talk. That’s it, and for quite long scenes too. There must have been a better way to weave some of the Hexagora’s lore into the story than just have two intelligent characters sit and have a chat. Ah well…
The story starts off in what would’ve been present day Brisbane at the time of the story’s creation, The Doctor and co. actually managing to find a spot and relax after the ordeals of “The Elite”, which is referenced quite a few times, specifically Nyssa recovering from her brainwashing.
This isn’t the first time The Doctor has been engaged and/or nearly married. In the First Doctor TV story “The Aztecs”, 50th Anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor” and Eleventh Doctor TV story “A Christmas Carol” all make reference to, or flat out feature him in that scenario. That’s not even including his actual wedding in the Eleventh Doctor TV story “The Wedding of River Song”.
Hexagora is a fun and very accurate-felling Fifth Doctor story, one that would’ve felt right at home during his TV era. It may not have particularly stood out as great, but it would have been one of the better ones. As it stands it’s a perfectly fine audio story, though some lazy exposition writing does drag it down a bit…