Doctor Who: Forty – Secrets of Telos Review

The era of three-disc boxsets for Doctors 5-7 begins with “Forty”, the first of two Fifth Doctor boxsets celebrating forty years since Peter Davison’s debut in the role. Oddly the first of the two stories, “Secrets of Telos”, is far more a celebration of Second Doctor classic Tomb of the Cybermen than it is anything to do with the Fifth Doctor. Whether you feel this is a bad thing or not aside, is the story any good on its own merits? Let’s take a look!

Synopsis:

Professor Parry’s expedition to the tombs of Telos was hardly an unmitigated success. The handful of survivors limp home in a spaceship…unaware that the deadly peril they faced from the Cybermen is not yet banished.

Into this situation stumble the Fifth Doctor and his friends Nyssa and Tegan – and they’re soon in a deadly fight for their lives.

Except things aren’t quite that simple – something odd is happening to the Doctor. He’s suddenly in a different part of his own timeline inhabiting his future self with no idea of why or how this has happened.

Who is bouncing him through time? And what could they possibly want?

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

The actual “celebrating forty years of the Fifth Doctor” aspect of this boxset is that The Doctor from the time he’s with Tegan, Nyssa and Adric is swapped with a Doctor from after Adric’s death, when it’s just him, Tegan and Nyssa. This story sees the younger Fifth Doctor try to figure out why he’s suddenly a short way down his own timeline while avoiding finding out things about his future (like where Adric had gone to, for instance…) It’s a fun concept, but one that almost immediately takes a backseat to doing a full-on sequel to Tomb of the Cybermen…

Yes, The Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa arrive on the very same ship Professor Parry (played here by Christopher Timothy) and Captain Hopper (played here by Ronan Summers) took off from Telos on at the end of the Second Doctor classic. In Aliens/Alien3 style the ship still has a few Cybermats on board, who then begin to convert sleeping / injured members of the crew, leading to a good run around the ship as Parry, Hopper and his engineer Morton (Tamzin Outhwaite) try to survive for two episodes. At the end of Episode 2 Hopper sacrifices himself to let everyone else escape in a pod, landing on a jungle planet that wasn’t previously in the Telos system when they left. Apparently it was somehow camouflaged from detection but Professor Vansom (Barbara Flynn), who had become stranded there, dubbed in “Telos Minor”.

Tegan, Nyssa and Morton discover a Cyberman factory while The Doctor and Parry meet up with Vansom, a female scientist who Parry has a strong dislike for due to her undercutting of his work. She soon shows that she’d been using the Cyberman factory to create cyber-versions of local animals as pets, but when the fully Cyber-converted crew from the rocket arrive they connect to the factory’s mainframe and take control. Que more running around, Vansom getting her just deserts and everyone else escaping with their lives, just. At the end of the story we get a teaser for the next one as the later Doctor arrives in his past to see Adric still alive…

To be honest, if you had to do a direct sequel to Tomb (and let’s face it, you didn’t… plus the Sixth Doctor TV story “Attack of the Cybermen” was also pretty much a direct sequel anyway…) then at least this was an entertaining story. The two different locations and a swap around with the guest cast kept things as-fresh-as-you-can-get while Nicholas Briggs nailed the Tomb-era Cyberman voice for extra authenticity. So it was actually good, even if it seemed entirely unnecessary…

The Bad:

A nice and colourful cover that’s well put together, though one that also emphasises the returning foes aspect of the box. Makes you wonder if Big Finish are worried about Box Set sales?

The only bad is what’s I’ve already mentioned, really. This is celebrating forty years of the Fifth Doctor, it seemed odd to celebrate that by focusing on a Second Doctor story. Surely some sort of direct sequel to a Fifth Doctor TV story would’ve made far more sense, or maybe a greater focus on the idea of the two Fifth Doctors swapping out. For the record this Doctor does find out Adric dies, but given he doesn’t know when it happens it’s pretty clear he won’t remember by the end of these two Forty sets, so it kind of loses a lot of impact, especially given it isn’t the focus of the story.

Beyond that it’s a standard run-around, but given it’s a direct sequel to a classic run-around, that’s fine really…

The Continuity:

Well, as already mentioned several times, this is a direct, and I mean “a few hours later” kind of direct, sequel to Second Doctor TV classic “The Tomb of the Cybermen”. A story that not only has had a sequel on TV in Sixth Doctor story “Attack of the Cybermen” but also has seen the Fourth Doctor interact with his Second self during that very story in the audio drama double-bill “The Fate of Krelos / Return to Telos”.

Also, as a lot of Fifth Doctor audio stories tend to do, Adric’s death is mentioned, an incident that occurred in the TV classic “Earthshock”.

Overall Thoughts:

Secrets of Telos is one of those stories where I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed that they decided to mine an already established and revisited story rather than create something new, or at least revisit something relevant to the Fifth Doctor given this is his 40th Anniversary box set and all. That being said it is actually a fun story to listen to and does a good job of following on from Tomb, so I can’t actually dislike it. It’s good, so long as you ignore it’s four episodes of a six episode Fifth Doctor celebratory box set called “Forty”.

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