Audio Visuals
Shadow World

Synopsis: The Doctor lands on a quiet, out-of-the-way planet so Greg can rest after the ordeal with the Sionovores. Alas, they've stumbled upon the one place in the universe where the devastating drug sargol is found, and a stranded Time Lord is holding the population in thrall with his supply of the narcotic.


A Review by Jean-Marcel Casey 17/3/11

The pre-theme sequence features some great use of sound and is genuinely creepy and psychedelic. We learn that this was all part of a trippy drug experience in the mind of a stranded Time Lord named Askran, who has been harvesting the narcotic Sargol and using it to... enslave the population of a village, or a planet, or something like that. He's made the mistake of getting high off his own supply, though, and appears to have some mysterious femme fatale who comes to him in his dreams, and notably isn't his assistant Miranda, who is possibly quite jealous. Unfortunately, this angle is never really pursued and the promise of the story of a Time Lord and his descent into drug addiction and interaction with a devoted assistant and companion are never really pursued. The story actually gets stymied when the Doctor and Greg appear, with Askran becoming little more than a Master substitute. John Ainsworth is surely no Roger Delgado and while he plays a suitably smooth and suave villain and engages in some witty reparte with the Doctor, he's not really an actor, and is only capable of one vocal expression, that being silky and deep, with occasional slight menace. It's amusing to picture Askran being called upon to portray some heavy emotional scene as I'm quite sure it wouldn't have come off right, as much as it might have helped the play. Sorry John!

Nick Briggs commented that he didn't like this story much, if I recall right, because it sidelined the Doctor and was really about Askran and Miranda. Well, we ought to be used to having a Doctor operating on the periphery by now, what with years of novels and even a few Big Finish stories, but I guess in 1985 it was a little unconventional. All the same, the story really should have been more about Askran and Miranda. Not only does the Doctor's need to save Greg from dying of psychedelia nightmare overload fail to engage, but there are four or five characters who do nothing but wander around and comment on the situation on the planet or village or whatever. These people should have been scrapped right away, to leave more room to explore Askran and Miranda's relationship, which has the potential to be pretty interesting. We get to see Askran a little through Miranda's eyes as she speaks with the Doctor; while she's hardly a little innocent and may be colouring the tale for her own purposes, there's certainly the implication of a devillish seducer at work, spiriting the girl away from her family and friends to witness the wonders of space and time... only to have her play second fiddle to his schemes and addictions and get her stranded on this dull planet. One can see why she's a little pissed, but not why she just ends up being evil by the end (sorry for spoiling the twist, but trust me when I say that it sucks anyway).

But hey, the music in this one is really good, the trip sequences are horrifying and make nice use of audio effects, and I think Nick Briggs's love of bleepy electronic TARDIS noises makes its debut here. The cast isn't as good as what we had with Cloud of Fear, with only Askran standing out and still failing to display much range. Miranda should have been played a little differently (or maybe by a better actress) and more effort put into showing how Askran's personality changed because of the sargol addiction. At it is, we're just told that he's "become erratic", and he guns down a couple of desperate addicts who come crawling to his door for no reason aside from that he's having a bad day. Worst drug pusher ever!

The story seems light and unimportant, but Askran and sargol would become very relevant to the AV series as a whole. This illustrates something the team seemed to rather enjoy doing: making things that at first appeared inconsequential into pretty heavy fare later on. There's no real foreshadowing either, since I don't think any of this was really planned in advance; they just sort of thought, "hey, so-and-so came up with this idea years ago, what if we make it pivotal now!" It's rather the opposite of what Babylon 5 tended to do: hammering the idea home to the viewer over and over again that they meticulously orchestrated every event right from the beginning. I like the AV/Blake's 7 approach, myself.