THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Big Finish Productions
Eye of the Scorpion

Written by Ian McLaughlin Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2001
Continuity Between Planet of Fire
and The Caves of Androzani

Starring Peter Davison and Nicola Bryant
Also featuring Caroline Morris, Jonathan Owen, Stephen Perring, Harry Myers, Jack Galagher, Daniel Brennan and Mark Wright.

Synopsis: The Pharoah is dead, a warlord is assembling an army of mercenaries, a strange box has been discovered in the capital and the Doctor has hijacked the TARDIS.


Reviews

All Hail Great Erimem – who seems to know much vocabulary from the 20th Century, like 'virus', 'galaxy', 'evolution' and 'parasite'! by Julian Shortman 29/10/01

On my first hearing of this story, I must confess I felt a little cheated. You see, for reasons which I largely attribute to BF’s publicising/website, I’d felt led to believe that I was about to be served up with a sumptuous Fifth Doctor historical. In recent days, I’ve become rather partial to historicals – The Marian Conspiracy and The Fires of Vulcan rate as two of my firm favourites in the BF collection, and having had a 6th & 7th Doctor historical adventures, this one looked very well placed in the schedule to be a 5th Doctor historical. Well, as Iain McLauighlin said himself, it’s not a historical, it’s a ‘pseudo-historical’. I was also disappointed from the point of view of using the setting of Ancient Egypt. There’s only so many times we can stomach the Doctor landing in a period of Earth’s history before it feels drained of story ideas (the Second World War being a prime candidate for a period which has been over-squeezed). Ancient Egypt hasn’t been tapped into before, and I think it had potential for a very rich historical tale. Iain’s story could have been viably placed on an alien world, and I think it would have been wiser to have mined a true historical out of Egypt later.

However, beyond this ‘Oh…..’, the story did have some strong points. The setting was mostly well captured in both script & presentation, and I genuinely felt sucked into the time and place. There were enough smatterings of interesting peripheral facts to add flavour to the overall feel. Peri was the strongest she’s ever been on audio – she had the second episode pretty much to herself, and carried it well (a credit to the actor & scriptwriter I think). Peter’s Doctor was on similar good form as in Loups-Garoux, and Yanis made a strong seething villain, virtually spitting evil into the microphone. Erimem was fun… but is she really a strong enough character to become a companion? I hope so, but maybe she’ll do a Katarina on us and then we can all feel a little sad but satisfied that she didn’t stick around too long.

The alien content was an interesting idea – I particularly liked the integration of animals into the overall threat, although I didn’t feel that the scorpions played a big enough role to merit the title. Our appetites were well wetted in episodes 1-3 concerning the building mystery surrounding the strange box discovered in the desert. But then we had a real clanger of a speech in the first couple of minutes of episode 4, when the Doctor gave a full, whack explanation speech to Erimem. It felt not only like far too big a pill to swallow all at once for any listener, but it also jarred horribly as if it had been chucked in without consideration to Erimem’s character. Now I know not all historical figures have porridge heads, and I agree it can be long, drawn out and very dull to have the Doctor talk down to a historical character in simple words so they can understand him. But this speech seemed to completely miss the perception which had been built up about Erimem’s understanding prior to this point in the story. I wanted/expected her to say ‘What on earth are you babbling on about Doctor?’ But from this point on in the story we were expected to believe that she could understand words that would have been completely out of her understanding. Unfortunately, that clanger left quite an uncomfortable feeling in the mind as I felt expected to suspend an extra layer of reality, after having been drawn in over three episodes to what felt like a moderately realistic tale.

Overall then, despite the clanger above, this was a listenable & enjoyable pseudo historical tale – but I do hope we get a bona fide 5th Doctor historical at some point later please!


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 31/10/01

The Eye Of The Scorpion is a triumph as far as The Fifth Doctor is concerned, but is perhaps more so in the case of Peri. Similar to Winter For The Adept, she carries much of the second episode, as Nyssa did previously. Set in Ancient Egypt,the TARDIS crew become embroiled in events as the new Pharaoh Erimem (a pivotal character) is about to be crowned. Here we have another historical and a pretty good one at that; newcomer Ian McLaughlin's script complements Peter Davison and Nicola Bryant and this comes across in their repartee. The supporting cast are another highlight. Caroline Morris, whilst not necessarily being vocally distinctive is certainly the most memorable. So a solid story backed up by solid performances; The Eye Of The Scorpion continues to maintain the high standards of audio Doctor Who.


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 13/11/01

We all know that Big Finish have the knack of recreating environments that are real, and totally authentic. The way that Ancient Egypt would come to life was therefore of great interest to me – having a fascination with that brand of History. It is with great delight then that I can assure the prospective listener that Ancient Egypt is here, in its’ glory. From the haunting pipes of the accompanying soundtrack, to the windswept desert sands, through to claustrophobic catacombs, onto elaborate palaces – this was Egypt.

The story is woven around Erinem – a soon to be pharaoh the Doctor has never heard of. Is she a notable gap in the Doctors’ memory, or will she never become Pharoah? On such is the story based. The Doctor is his usual heroic self, I could really picture him at the reins of the chariot, flying through the desert. He is the champion of the piece too, becoming a trusted advisor to Erinem. It is a fine Doctor Who Story, but one ideally suited to the 5th Doctors’ personality and demeanour.

The revelation throughout is Peri. Big Finish apparently asked for a story with Peri doing a little more than usual, and that is exactly what this is. The 2nd Episode doesn’t even feature the Doctor, but the story is no worse for that. Peri becomes the friend of Erinem, and the 2 of them get into some fine scrapes. I would go as far to say that it is the best-written story for her character that any branch of Doctor Who has provided us with. Nicola Bryant excels. Peris’ dry, but witty humour shining through. She gets fully into the action too. It is just a very good story for Peri.

Joining these 2 familiar characters is Erinem. Rarely has a secondary character had so much to do. With Peri and the Doctor she forms a wonderful partnership. Erinem is central to the story – everything revolves around her, and her ascension to Pharoah. The bonus of this great attention to a secondary character brings much to the drama. Erinem is a fascinating character in her own right.

The other characters are pretty well played and depicted, whether they be loyal consorts or Villains. The whole production comes together wonderfully well, and I can think of no weak link.

Iain McLaughlin has provided a story that is very easy to follow. We get recaps of key points between the characters, just to check we have the gist of the story. This works well, because the political intrigue stuff can get a bit complicated. The story fully utilizes the staple ingredients of Egyptian wonder. The pharaoh, and their Godlike role. The Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza. Priests and Clerics behind the scenes. Scarab Beetles chasing our heroes around Catacombs. It also does not shirk from more controversial, sexual aspects either. We are given a splendid overall and interesting portrait of Ancient Egyptian Culture.

Above all Eye of the Scorpion is a rattling good adventure, in the great tradition of Doctor Who. It is one of Big Finishs’ best. 9/10


A Review by John Seavey 26/3/04

Actually, this one worked in about the same fashion as Project: Twilight for me... it's got a certain earnest innocence that makes it pretty hard to dislike, even though it's clearly flawed. It just gives off a vibe of someone who liked every character that they were writing, and wanted to give it a classic feel that's charming even when it's cliched. (Although I will say that the East End Tough accent that worked very well for Reggie in Project: Twilight works less well for Yanis the Egyptian mercenary.)