Another Fifth Doctor Lost Story, another case of Nyssa getting her mind messed with! Also, another Big Finish story featuring David Warner doing his same voice… Ah well. What else does The Children of Seth offer? Why more politics and androids, obviously! Yes, this story does feel like a lot of existing Fifth Doctor stories mashed together, but is it any good? That’s the main question!
During one of Nyssa’s experiments, the TARDIS’ temporal scanner picks up a message: “Idra”. Just one word, but enough to draw the Doctor to the Archipelago of Sirius.
There, the Autarch is about to announce a new crusade. A mighty war against Seth, Prince of the Dark…
But who is Seth? What is the secret of Queen Anahita, Mistress of the Poisons? And what terror awaits on Level 14?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
The main trio of new characters you have to pay attention to is Queen Anahita (Honor Blackman), the Queen who is all but in exile and knowns the truth of how the planet is ran, Byzan (Adrian Lukis), the military commander who is pretty much in control of the planet Sirius, and Autarch Siris (David Warner), the current leader of Sirius who is old, grumpy and perfectly happy to leave the planet in the hands of Byzan. This three way bout of court politics are at the heart of the story.
The Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa are called to the planet by Anahita as she had met a previous Doctor and she’d hoped he would not only help her reclaim Sirius from Byzan’s control, but expose the truth about Seth, the evil force the planet constantly goes to war against. So of course this leads to plenty of people being captured and running away, with Tegan befriending Anahita, Doctor befriending Shamur (Vernon Dobtcheff) an old warrior from battles pasts, and Nyssa… being captured, her mind wiped and thrown in a deep underground prison on Level 14. Damn, Nyssa really doesn’t have much luck in these Lost Stories… The Doctor, at one point, tries to connect his mind to the planet’s internet equivalent and ends up blinded as all he can see are numbers in place of objects. That was an interesting idea, and the cliffhanger of him crawling around on the floor of Level 14, which is described as a kind of hell, was good.
The truth is soon revealed, that Anahita had written a fictional book about a dark lord called Seth and how generic evils like that can justify wars, and Byzan thought that was a great idea, banned and burned all copies of the book and convinced the people of Sirius that Seth was real to justify his wars. Anahita was disfigured trying to stop the book burning, and Siris has, I guess, just become too old and forgetful to remember Seth not being real? Well, either way, Byzan’s plans unravel, Nyssa remembers enough of herself to arrange a breakout from Level 14 and Anahita and Siris end up back in charge of the planet. There are plenty of little side stories and characters, but that’s the gist. It’s a perfectly fine story, it never slows down or gets boring, but I can’t say I was ever full interested.
A decent cover, though I have to say Anahita doesn’t look very disfigured to me!
I have to say that Shamur was very… odd. Something about his speech pattern and accent made it hard to hear sometimes, and as soon as he’s introduced as an old solider I knew full well he’d die heroically charging against something… which he did. Also Byzan’s aide Albis (Matt Addis) is revealed to be an Android, something that’s banned on the planet, and by the end of the story has gained enough sentience that he betrays Byzan and wishes to rule over the planet with his Android brethren… I mean, not THE most interesting twist, especially not in Doctor Who, but there you go. Addis was good as Albis and everything, but along with the court politics it was maybe one Who trope to many?
Plus there were just a lot of really plain archetypes, not helped by the admittedly great but still using the same old voice David Warner. I mean it wasn’t that long ago he voiced a character in the 2nd Doctor Lost Stories, let alone his abundance of appearances in other Who stories. Again, not the end of the world, he is great in the role, but still…
Not much actually, beyond references to Nyssa’s brainwashing in “The Elite” and Tegan’s decision not to return to her own time with her old friend Mike Bretherton in “Hexagora”. In other words, they only reference the other two Lost Stories from this era!
The Children of Seth caps off a trilogy of Fifth Doctor Lost Stories that all feel like they were taken straight from the TV era. Sadly I’d say Seth is the weakest, but it’s still good. It’s just I feel Hexagora and especially The Elite had something new and interesting going for them, where this just felt familiar. Cosy familiar, yes, but familiar all the same. As a Lost Story though, I guess it did its job!