I was initially hesitant to buy Wicked Sisters, given I haven’t been following the Graceless spin-off series, but after being assured it was pretty stand alone, and given the price, I went with it. Turns out I made the right choice, because whatever happened to Abby and Zara between the Key2Time trilogy and this was nicely explained in a few bits of dialogue, and what was left was a fun story featuring The Fifth Doctor teaming up with Leela to tackle a duo who are pretty much doing what The Doctor does, just with more … dangerous powers…
The Doctor is recruited by Leela for a vital mission on behalf of the Time Lords.
Together, they must track down and destroy two god-like beings whose extraordinary powers now threaten all of space and time. These beings are already known to the Doctor.
Their names are Abby and Zara…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
For those not aware, Abby (Ciara Janson) (who was originally named Amy before a certain TV companion sort of got a hold of the name) and Zara (Laura Doddington) first appeared in the Fifth Doctor main range trilogy “Key2Time”, with the former being a “living tracer” and the latter being her rouge sister… it’s been a LOOOONG time since I listened to those stories, however. Since then they have become all-powerful, so long as they touch each other, and seem to have taken the role of the Universe’s protector, seeing what went wrong on a planet and the going back in time, subtly altering early events until things go better. Obviously the Time Lords are having none of this, so they send Leela to pick up The Doctor and put a stop to them, permanently.
It’s a good concept because The Doctor has to take down a duo who are essentially just doing what he does, just using a more frightful and direct power to do it, even if they are being slow and steady with it. After some brief arguing The Doctor and Leela arrive in a lovely garden and are met by a bunch of children who are shocked at Leela’s age and hurry them both off to a big party. Turns out the party is for a lady named Zeeb (Pandora Clifford) who is celebrating the end of her life because she’s turned 40, and anyone of that age is immediately taken away to be killed in order to stop over population (one of those societies!). The Doctor resists the urge to over-throw this regime and prove Abby and Zara right after meeting them and finding out what they’re up to. The foursome end up causing a ruckus at the party after they start seeing random beings made from smoke feeding off of the people, and soon The Doctor and Abby are taken to be killed after their ages are read.
It’s long review like this that make me miss the individual covers… or at least some DWM artwork!
Leela and Zara follow after them and soon the group discover that people are incinerated and their remains devoured by the smoke people. In the resulting confusion The Doctor and Zara teleport to a random place and time, but Leela and Abby are left behind after the former broke Abby and Zara’s hands apart to stop them from using their powers. This leads to episode 2, “The Moonrakers”, where The Doctor and Zara find themselves on the moon and confronting a rather placid Sontaran, eventually being taken to their hidden settlement where the aliens are making a lovely garden. Leela and Abby manage to follow and meet up with some humans who are trying to escape from the potato-headed aliens and they, of course, all end up captured. It’s here we find out that Zara and The Doctor had been with them for years, leading the Sontarans’ human capturing efforts. This is so the Sontarans can have a “good fight” against a large number of unified humans, but, of course, this turns out all to be a ruse and The Doctor stops their armour from working in the battle so the aliens lose, and then become submissive. This is where the fun twist comes because the lovely sealed garden they arrived in at the start of Episode 1 was the future of the Sontarans’ moon garden, and the society was built on the garden being discovered after the Sontarans had killed all the humans before being wiped out themselves. By saving the people The Doctor has altered history in the same way he was supposed to stop Abby and Zara from doing.
Episode 3 kicks off with everyone arriving back in the Garden at the same time as before but finding a much nicer society. Leela is still convinced killing them is the best option, but The Doctor wants to find another way, but soon this issue is put on the backburner because the smoke creatures return and are once again feeding on the people. It’s revealed that the creatures are actually from the swirling void created by Abby and Zara’s abuse of their powers, they feed on the paradox of the people existing due to their desire to live, or live again, as if they were somehow connected to the many rewrites of time. It’s interesting, and eventually resolved as The Doctor takes the creatures into his TARDIS and robs them of their food source, eventually dying and regenerating over and over as they demand to escape. Abby and Zara use their powers “one last time” to save him and revert him to his Fifth self before vanishing. In reality they’re still about, and The Doctor meets with them, telling them to keep themselves hidden otherwise his people will come after them again. He returns to Leela and the two head off back to Gallifrey. It’s a fun story overall, but the final part has issues…
The main bad is the Smoke Creatures, because of the whispery voice combined with whatever vocal effect they went with, I could barely hear what they said. I could hear “we must feed” a few times, but for the most part I found out what they were saying through The Doctor’s reactions rather than the creatures themselves. Combine that with a very heavy “run around for half an episode doing very little before we reveal everything” plot and Episode 3 was by far the weakest.
Abby and Zara first appeared in the Key2Time Fifth Doctor trilogy, starting with “The Judgement of Isskar”. This trilogy is specifically stated to happen while The Doctor was travelling with Peri, so how so much time has passed that The Doctor stops to reminisce about Abby and Zara like he hasn’t thought about them in ages when Leela mentions them is a bit of a mystery…
That’s about it really. There have been lots of stories on the moon and even more with the Sontarans, so… yeah. I’m not listing those!
Wicked Sisters was very cleverly written, full of great dialogue and some fun scenes. It’s let down a bit by a weaker third part and a key villainous force that you can’t really hear talk, but it’s still well worth tracking down. If core Doctor Who audios didn’t already take up so much of my time I’d look into picking up the Graceless spin-off sets on the back of this story, so if that was the idea behind this box, then top marks there!