THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Big Finish Productions
The Sandman

Written by Joseph Lidster Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2002
Continuity Between The Trial of a Time Lord and Time and the Rani.

Starring Colin Baker and Maggie Stables
Also featuring Anneke Wills Ian Hogg, Robin Bowerman, Stephanie Colburn, Mark Donovan, Mark Wharton

Synopsis: The Sandman, a figure of myth and folk-lore, preys on the young and old alike. He lurks in the shadows and it is death to look upon him. The Sandman, according to the tales, also goes by the name of the Doctor!


Reviews

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 2/12/02

The 6th Doctor and Evelyn return after a lengthy absence. This made for audio companionship is the best combination BF have - it had been a year since Project: Twilight - too long. I was therefore hoping for great things from The Sandman. We were promised a Space setting - the Clutch being an interstellar Convoy of Spaceships. We were promised a darker Doctor too, one that has done something nasty.

The 6th Doctor was perceived as quite nasty and Violent on TV - but I never really subscribed wholly to that notion. Apart from his initial story, when he was clearly troubled by regeneration, this Doctor was no nastier than all the others. He did get off to a bad start, with a warped character, and it affected perceptions of him for a very long time. There was also the chaos of TOTL (which saw the worst presentation of the Time Lord ever seen in Mindwarp). It is only now, many years on that we are getting the real thing. Big Finish knew the potential of Doctor 6, and we've had the best of him. And so was this to be a return to The Twin Dilemma Doctor, or something more substantial. A dark Doctor, but in such a sunny outfit could he really pull it off?

The Doctor is the Sandman for the Galyari - a figure from myth who did something incredibly nasty to their race in the past. Thus we are given a few recaps during the course of the play - which result in the story backtracking many centuries to the Doctor's original contact with the Galyari. These explanations are vital to the understanding of the story, and it's a story that takes some understanding to fit all the pieces of the puzzle in the right place.

The questions that Simon Forward asks set the whole thing up nicely. Why is the Doctor hated so much? Did he really do those horrible things, taking skins as treasures and threatening the death of all Galyari? Will Evelyn stand by him? What really happened all those years ago, and how is the Doctor mixed up in all this mayhem? These questions form the basis of this audio production, and these questions dominated all the proceedings.

The Galyari are an interesting new race for DW. BF does its magic on the voices. They take a bit of getting used to at first, but by the end I have to admit that I'd like to hear them again. Ian Hogg and Anneke Wills are unrecognizable as the 2 main Galyari - it could be anyone, BF have distorted their voices that much. Nonetheless it's good to see TV DW people employed in these dramas - keeps them in the fans' focus, and stretches their acting muscles. The rival race, as represented by the squeaky Nintaru, are interesting too. The building story featuring these 2 races gets more and more fascinating as the production develops.

DW thrives on great human characters though - it has always been so. There's countless DW stories that feature spaceship captains and crew that are human - going to different worlds, eking out a living, but maintaining a certain stereotypical image relating to their Earth ancestry. And so we have Mr Mordecan, an Irish gypsy traveller. Robin Bowerman is excellent as the main supporting character of the piece. He has his own ways, and suffers from a severe lack of nosiness - but yet seems to have a piece of everything all the same! The other human on show is, of course, Evelyn. Maggie Stables continues to present a supremely likeable companion for the 6th Doctor, and the Doctor and Evelyn continue to work together superbly well. She is not as prominent here as previous dramas though. There's lots of running around, and you can only get away a few times with Evelyn's exasperating responses to all this action. Whilst Sandman is not the best use of Evelyn's character, she continues to be an innovative and welcome character.

But how does Colin Baker's Doctor handle the darker side of his nature? Very well indeed. Colin Baker shouts better than most, and you can really picture him with the Galyari skins at the top of the battlefield. This supremely dominant personality Doctor (2nd only to the other Baker in this) works brilliantly as he puts fear into a race. A darker shade to the Doctor was always there - this incarnation more than most - and it's good to see BF accepting lots of different presentations of our favourite character. The Doctors of Big Finish have undergone something of a face-lift, whilst keeping their integral personality traits intact. This development of the main character, in each incarnation, is a key ingredient as to why Big Finish Doctor Who is the best kind of Doctor Who we have ever had - and it's represented superbly well here in The Sandman.

The story may be one of the most complex BF have produced. Simon Forward's script needs more attention on the part of the listener than most. The Clutch is a magnificent idea, and BF recreate such an environment brilliantly well. The writing and sound design produces the images that make the whole thing work - and in the Clutch, Forward has created one of those instantly memorable places that feed the imagination. In the Galyari, Forward and BF have created a splendid new foe, with a history that is more intertwined with the Doctor than virtually all other races he has encountered. It's these concepts that make The Sandman work.

The Sandman is yet another extremely good drama from Big Finish. 8/10


What a monster! by Joe Ford 18/1/03

The Sandman has one of the best villains Doctor Who has ever created. Considering the show is nearly 40 years old and its list of memorable bad guys (and lasses) include Sutekh, Morbius, Adastra, Helen A... that is quite high praise indeed. It was about time somebody did the 'Doctor as the enemy' plot im so glad they chose Colin Baker's incarnation for the role. For one it gives the perfect opportunity for Colin to play up his nasty Doctor status to the hilt and secondly it adds more layers to this ever fascinating audio 6th Doctor.

What we get is some of the most memorable scenes in recent Who memory as the Doctor brutally abuses the Galyari, verbally scorns them and woefully mistreats Evelyn. Mr Baker, ever known for his rather expressive voice takes a sinister turn at the end of episode one and his agression and force prove quite scary to listen too. Just what on Earth is the Doctor up to? we all want to know and to Simon A Forward's credit he doesn't supply any answers (but keeps up the prentence of horror on the Doctor's part) until the final episode. His "You see Evelyn, I'm every bit the monster they make me out to be..." at the end of the first episode is perfectly timed as he has spent the entire first episode marvelling at the technological achievement of the Galyari. His sudden change of heart is shocking.

And Evelyn is back! How long has it been since we last met? Bloodtide, way back then? Maggie Stables is always welcome in my book and her usual dry wit and intelligent remarks are here in abundance. One of the wonderful things about Evelyn is her relaxed, almost equal relationship with the Doctor (not unlike Tom and Lalla) which he could never have with youths like Peri, Nyssa and Ace. The Sandman plays on their relationship charmingly, she treats him charmingly like the pest that he is until she realises his involvement in the Galyari past. It is her disturbed, frightened reaction to his sudden venomous behaviour that drives home the severity of the situation. I love how she never truly doubts him after all but for a while there you doubt their friendship can ever be the same again (As the Doctor says shockingly "Yes that will be quite enough from you human!"). Her later scenes tracking down Mordecan prove just how more resourceful this aged academic is compared to other companions. And how much of a joy is it when she states how painful it is to look as his coat!

Anneke Wills returns to Doctor Who after a three decade holiday away. She provides a decent performance as Nrosha, her hatred for the 'Sandman' is vivid and palpable. The post production voice distortion is superb but Ms Wills puts real loathing in her performance that leads you to believe she won't hesitate to kill him.

The story is a strong one although it isn't as dramatic as Spare Parts or as intelligent as ...Ish and yet Simon A Forward still manages to provide a few good surprises in the last few episodes. I love how episode two drifts nostagically into the Galyari past (gee the Doctor's vicious barbs at Voshkar are frightening, he really does make an excellent villain) giving some real weight to the story. We don't doubt for a second that this race SHOULD hate the Doctor. The dialogue is strong and memorable but most of the best stuff is dished out between the Doctor and Evelyn, the other actors are hidden to well behind post production.

It is great to see Maggie Stables turn up on a cover but it really is the most apalling cover we've seen for ages. Why is she hidden away behind Colin Baker? Why does the cat badge look like a kid has drawn it. Why does the fish tail stick through the Doctors chest? It is especially disapointing when I'm reminded of the stunning covers of The Rapture and ...Ish. Let's hope it's just a momentary lapse.

The direction is adequate and the sound effects as effective as ever. I don't feel Gary Russell is one of the better Big Finish directors but he certainly manages to drive some good drama from this story. Mind you none of the cliffhangers are especially memorable. A shame because Russell Stone's score is as effective as ever, the magic Evelyn experiences when she first spots the Clutch is expressed beautifully through the music. He adds weight to the 'history' scenes and the end of episode one has a particularly memorable sting. I wish he could score every story.

The Sandman was an enjoyable experience, just not quite as good as the last three (actually it was probably a little better than the amateurish The Rapture). It raises some interesting questions and there are some clever twists in the final episode, the 6th Doctor and Evelyn remain the best Doctor/companion team of the Big Finish line up and it is brilliant to see such an unusual spin on the Doctor's involvement in an alien species' past.


A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 18/8/04

The Sandman is a somewhat experimental story although thanks to Colin Baker`s portrayal what we are left with is something largely enjoyable. The plot sees the Doctor and Evelyn visit the Clutch, homeworld to the Galyari who fear the Doctor of old. This in turn allows for a darker portrayal (although this has been done before notably in Mindwarp and The Invasion Of Time), this is also refreshing in terms of characterisation and Colin Baker goes with all the ideas presented with great gusto. Maggie Stables however is somewhat relegated as Evelyn and despite her performance (great as it is) she does come across as a bit redundant.

This aside, the introduction of the Galyari (complete with modulated voices) is welcome, although it seems somewhat bizarre to use a guest star (in this instance former companion Anneke Wills and then change her voice beyond all recognition.) The Sandman is a satisfying story featuring a fascinating concept as its central storyline. Recommended listening.


A Review by John Seavey 30/8/05

The Sandman seemed oddly short for a two-CD audio. In fact, it really seemed a bit like they'd just taken Simon Forward's outline and dramatised it, without bothering to actually flesh anything out with any sort of script. The evil, villainous monster is seen about three times over the course of the audio, and we never really get to see it "in action", because the script is trying desperately to pretend that it's actually the Doctor. That's The Sandmans big, big twist; to the Galyari, the Doctor is evil. But Colin Baker plays "menacing" so over the top that we immediately spot that it's a bluff, the ensuing two solid parts of exposition and flashbacks only serve to solidify this impression, so we're left to wait for an hour or so before the story catches up with our deduction that there must be another monster out there. By the time it does, the audio's almost over. So there's just enough time for a perfunctory confrontation, and then the credits roll. Really more of an exercise in sleight-of-hand than a story, and a badly done one at that.


A Review by Ron Mallett 4/11/05

The Sandman by Simon A Forward and produced by Big Finish is a little boring to tell you the truth. Despite the fact that it's directed by Gary Russell and has excellent sound work by Russell Stone and Gareth Jenkins, and it features Colin Baker and Maggie Stables as the Doctor and Evelyn it is... boring.

I think the problem is with the script. It's too convoluted, busy and it alienates us early on from the Doctor and so the listener finds him or herself just drifting off. Certainly all the elements are there and that includes guest appearances from Ian Hogg (Ghost Light) and Stephanie Colbourn (The Ultimate Adventure). It's just a bore.

I think there were one or two little risks taken with the script as well. The second episode is virtually all exposition. Furthermore in the final episode, the Doctor seems to revert to direct commentary to the listener to represent the passage of time. These different narrative approaches tend to jar when one listens to the adventure as a whole.

The story's hook of course was that the Doctor is about to perhaps be revealed as a villain and tormentor of a particular species. Of course we all know that this is a ruse and while Colin Baker does his best to pull it off, the entire idea comes across as a bit thin. The whole story comes across as being a bit flat with a feeling that cast and crew are just going through the motions.

Unfortunately it perhaps isn't destined to be remembered as being one of the 6th Doctor's better adventures!