Big Finish Productions
The Spectre of Lanyon Moor

Written by Nicolas Pegg Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Running Time 90 mins
Released 2000
Continuity Between The Trial of a Time Lord and
Time and the Rani

Starring Colin Baker, Maggie Stables and Nicholas Courtney
Also featuring Susan Jameson, Barnaby Edwards, Toby Longworth, James Bolan, Helen Goldwyn and Nicholas Pegg

Synopsis: The Doctor and Evelyn meet up with the Brigadier on an archaeological dig. But something very old and very evil is gathering up its power and the secrets of the village may lead to the destruction of the planet...


A Review by James Goss 11/6/00

The Genocide Machine was a model of how to do traditional Doctor Who. Redolent with familiar phrases, ideas and settings, it hummed along - if not perfectly then at least comfortably.

The Spectre of Lanyon Moor tried to do the same thing and failed damply. A superb cast were let down by a derivative and limp script.

You couldn't really fault anything else about this CD but the script. Colin Baker and Maggie Stables had a lovely rapport that nearly outshone the presence of both Nicholas Courtney and the splendid James Bolam.

Everything sounded professional, edgy and compelling - and for most of the first episode it was gripping stuff.

And then I suddenly realised that with no effort at all I was able to predict what was going to happen next, what people were going to say, and which not-so-surprising twist was going to be leadenly flagged next.

This CD goes beyond occasional homage and pastiche to become shamelessly derivative. To begin with (THUD) an alien is trapped in earth's prehistory. Then the Doctor turns up. There's an unconvincing archaeological expedition (THUD), a suspicious member of the gentry with a dusty library (THUD), haunted caves (THUD), and something nasty on the moors (THUD).

It's as though even the author got bored of ripping off Terror of the Zygons, and occasionally turned to lifting chunks of City of Death and The Daemons wholsesale to keep his spirits up.

Needless to say, it doesn't work, especially when lines from something much more successful turn up second-hand. Perhaps the author didn't think about how people would behave in a situation, but how Doctor Who characters would, and then went and found appropriate lines. For me, the worst moment was when, apropos of nothing in particular, the villain announces "you now see me as I truly am".

There's no psychology - just the near-endless creaking as stale plots are slowly uncorked.

I'm not asking for radical Lawrence Miles reinterpretation -- it would just be nice if, for once, the evil villain actually turned out not to be ridiculous, pointless, or depressingly impractical around energy weapons.

It would also be absolutely splendid if rather than instantly dispatching his hapless minions, he made good on his promises.

It would be nice to see subtle, interesting shades of evil, character and plot, rather than just trapping the Doctor and Evelyn in a windswept house full of gibbering aliens and ranting maniacs.

As it was, the only really interesting point was two minutes from the end, when the Brigadier, Evelyn and the Doctor settled down for a cosy, amiable chat. Pointless it may have been, but at least for a few short seconds it sounded like characters interacting, rather than slightly embarrassed actors being forced to say improbable things.

A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 18/7/00

This is how Doctor Who fans of a certain age gap will remember the show; traditional yet highly enjoyable. Drawing upon Terror Of The Zygons, City Of Death and The Daemons as its main inspiration, Nicholas Pegg has produced a competent script, matched by a more than competent cast. Of course, this will be chiefly remembered as the Sixth Doctor`s first encounter with the Brigadier, so it is a shame that he doesn`t really get a lot to do. Maggie Stables` Evelyn Smythe however takes on the Sarah Jane role, as her background as a teacher is exploited allowing her to investigate and subsequently be captured and double crossed. Colin Baker is equally excellent, although he is somewhat outshone by James Bolam who excels as villain Sir Archibold Flint. The titular spectre is also well realised, although his voice takes some getting used to. All in all though The Spectre Of Lanyon Moor is highly enjoyable and another winner from Big Finish.

What Doctor Is Complete Without the Brigadier? by Peter Niemeyer 16/9/00

The Spectre of Lanyon Moor is one of those tales that played itself out very nicely. There was nothing spectacular or earth-shattering about any of the events in the story. But what it had to offer was well presented, and I just enjoyed watching the story unfold.

Of course, the most notable aspect of the tale is that this is the first recorded meeting of the Sixth Doctor and the Brigadier. (We are all still ignoring Dimensions in Time, aren't we?) Like the Daleks, he is one of those things that has to be done at least once within the era of each Doctor. His appearance here was more like Battlefield than Mawdryn Undead, more of a tacked-on element and less an integral part of the story. But Nicolas Courtney's performance was spot on, so I didn't really mind.

Evelyn Smythe...sigh! I am one of Maggie Stable's biggest fans!

Although there were no big touches that wowed me, there were lots of little touches. I liked the sound of the spectre on the moor. The cliffhangers with Evelyn in danger was especially gripping. The Doctor apologizing to Professor Morgan was a nice touch. And, there was one death and one traitor which totally caught me by surprise.

The Spectre of Lanyon Moor was a great tale. 9 out of 10! I would rave about it more, but Big Finish has been doing such good work lately that I've become accustomed to this level of quality.

Terrific by Richard Radcliffe 24/1/01

This most traditional of tales features the 6th Doctor, new companion Evelyn and the Brigadier. It is set in rural Cornwall. Celtic legends abound, and there is a local archeological dig in progress. The leader of this dig is Professor Morgan. He is aided by Mrs Moynihan and the local Lord - Archibald.

This terrific ensemble of characters make this Big Finish adventure a treat. The performances are excellent. The 6th Doctor, sporting a cold (!), has never been better. Evelyn is a marvelous creation, so different than the usual companions - yet so identifiable. The Brigadier is true to the warm character we know and love. Moynihan is a wonderfully Joyce Grenfell type character.

With its Cornish legends, stately home with dusty library, a spooky Lanyon Moor there is nothing particularly new here. It’s just good old-fashioned Dr Who. Rich in Character, simple in plot, a monstrous alien presence, yet familiar settings. Terrific. 10/10.

A Review by Jeremy Deline 8/11/01

A few quick qualifiers, so that my review makes sense.

  1. Colin Baker's Doctor was my least favorite when I was watching the television series, pre-puberty. I was the stereotypical young Doctor Who fan who reacted with horror at what happened to the show after Peter Davison left. I think the exact moment when Who crumbled before my eyes was when Peri turned into a bird in Vengeance on Varos. I'm not sure why. perhaps it was some sort of Jungian dream-metaphor. Anyhow, the point is, I've historically had large problems with the C. Baker era and still approach sixth-doctor non-televised stories with a bit of trepidation.
  2. This was the first Big Finish Audio I listened to. I'd heard relatively good buzz around the BF stories, and enjoy a good audio-only dramatic story. have been ever since I was six and I got to listen to large chunks of Lord of the Rings as read by J.R.R. Tolkien. but that's another digression. Despite hearing good things about Big Finish, the first story I was able to find was this Colin Baker story. I wailed, I wept, I moaned. give me Peter Davison, give me Sylvester McCoy, give me Paul McGann, anyone but Colin!
No one answered my prayer, and I eventually rationalized making the effort to give The Spectre of Lanyon Moor a try. By the end of Part one, I was hooked. I didn't know who this Evelyn woman was, but she and the Doctor were actually getting along! And what's more, she and Colin actually seemed to be having fun! In fact, you can practically hear the fun oozing from their voices, it's that infectious.

Since listening to The Spectre of Lanyon Moor for the first time, the reviews I've read seem to be split down the middle. About half the audience seems to have found it a joy and breezed through it. The other half seems to have labelled it a cliche, a bad-sad-trad mess, a mishmash of hoary old types that went grey long before Tom Baker did. Is it a fair argument to describe Spectre as simplistic, silly and cliched? Yes, in the same way that it's fair to argue that Hamlet is about a man who can't make up his mind whether or not to kill his uncle.

Listening to Spectre of Lanyon Moor was the redemption of Colin Baker for me. No come back!! I'm serious. I'm only going to talk at you for a little longer.

Look, it's been commonly accepted that by the time the Colin Baker period of the TV show rolled around, JNT was doing two things that characterized the show and alienated many fans:

  1. stressing the past history of the show while neglecting the present. A carry-over from the Davison days, this involved bringing in past villains (reaching it's peak in the Master, who JNT killed off only to ressurrect, blemish-free and sans fanfare... if I ever get around to discussing Planet of Fire, I'll talk about it), basing stories such as Attack of the Cybermen and Timelash around the Doctor's past actions, and attempting to neatly compartmentalize the Doctor's nature. In short, the Doctor Who of a more innocent time was dragged into the 1980's, kicking and screaming, thanks to JNT's other emphasis.
  2. A more 'adult' Doctor Who. The Juicing of Lytton's hands. The strangulation of Peri in the Tardis by a temporarily insane Doctor. The callous murders in The Two Doctors. The reliance on set-pieces. While invoking the past of the show, many of the Colin Baker stories (and arguably, some of the Davison ones) simultaneously degraded and cheapened it, in much the same way as the constant reminders of the Eighth Doctor's ineffectualness cheapened many of the 8DA's. 'Look!' the Show's Producer and creative staff would say. 'Here's ,b.Doctor Who!' but many people simply looked away.
Spectre of Lanyon Moor takes a completely different approach to the sixth Doctor, building on the show's history. instead of dredging up an old villain to face him in an explosion-wracked story, it takes Colin Baker, and drops him into an intelligent, but traditional Doctor Who narrative straight from the seventies, the Hinchcliffe era, perhaps. Even the Brigadier is involved, and as willing and able to help as ever! and the villains, while cliches, are enthusiastic in their evil, which seems to make a world of difference.

By being so traditional (in a good way), and so different from much of Colin Baker's TV Doctor, this CD forced me to re-evaluate my view of his era, and encouraged me to give more Big Finish stories a listen. I'd paticularly like to hear The Marian Conspiracy, to see just how the Doctor and Mz. Smythe end up travelling together. An unqualified recommendation to any fan who doesn't think that the TV series only was worth watching once JNT took over.

Audio/visual? by Joe Ford 23/2/03

I have a close friend who is as mad about Doctor Who as I am. We have such different tastes though that it provides us with loads to argue about. One of our favourite debates is the argument over what is proper Doctor Who... he only considers the series to be so. I strongly disagree, I believe Doctor Who shouldn't be restrained to one medium and the audios and books often do much better work than the TV series.

Taking into account most fans accept the series of EDA's as being the latest 'new' Doctor Who it is the audios people have most trouble with. Quite a few people have trouble with the media of audio itself (our own Robert Smith? for example) and can't concentrate enough without pictures to watch. I think audio is an excellent medium for Doctor Who to explore, all the imagination and charm of the TV series without any of the budgetary limitations. You can set the story anywhere, have as many special FX as you want... it is simply amazing how well you can conjour images with only dialogue and evocative music alone.

The Spectre of Lanyon Moor comes from Big Finish's early period when the team were still playing safe (well there were no audience unfriendly experiments like the clubbing atmosphere of The Rapture or diabolical complexity of ...ish). This was about halfway through the amazing re-habilitation of Colin Baker's much under-appreciated Doctor. He had already shown his gentle side in The Marian Conspiracy and this mellower yet still spiky incarnation continues his run here.

Yes there were mistakes made during Colin's two years on the telly but Big Finish were repairing the damage quite spectacularly. Firstly they began by providing him a brilliant companion in Evelyn Smythe, a cranky university lecturer with an infectous child-like sense of humour. The 6th Doctor and Evelyn are just made for each other, they compliment each other so well. He never pushes his luck with Evelyn, would never consider treating her as he would children like Peri. He respects her intelligence and in repsonse she brings out the best in him. His compassion and sense of wonder. Sod the fourth Doctor and Romana, if there was a Doctor/companion team that would be husband and wife this would be perfect. Their almost marital bickering is often the higlight of their stories together.

Secondly, the sixth Doctor gets a memorable tale with the Brigadier. Old Alistair is so marvellously British in this, I love how nothing at all takes him by surprise... after all he has seen in his life the events of this story are nothing. He just takes everything in his stride, recognises the Doctor instantly and their famous chemistry is once again re-kindled.

Thirdly, the sixth Doctor gets a good old fashioned horror tale in the best Hinchcliffe traditions. Rural Conwall, foggy moors, creepy old manors, goblins, savage dogs... the atmosphere here is just marvellous. It is enhanced by Alistair Lock's excellent music who provides some gorgeously malevolent scores. Especially creepy is the end of episode one but the heavy orchestral music introducing the tale is almost cinematic in its approach.

Reminiscent of Terror of the Zygons in atmosphere, comparing the two gives my argument about audio a strong basis. Terror is strong tale but dragged down by the mortifyingly bad Skarasen effects. It rather spoils the atmosphere which this tale doesn't suffer. In fact if anything the atmosphere of this tale improves as the story continues. Scary scenes of dogs ripping apart their owner, Sancreeda attacking soldiers... very effective and creepy. Zygons ends on a damn quib with the Skarasen popping his glove puppet head above the Thames... Lanyon Moor supercedes again with it's fatal twist ending.

Maggie Stables gets loads to do and she proves engaging as ever. Evelyn's scenes with Flint hold together the second episode, her marvellous reaction to his gradiose plans are highly amusing. Her description of Sancreeda's attack is frightening. Colin is as wonderful as ever, surrounded by people he admires his trademark bitterness is almost completely gone and replaced by a charming respect. His squabbles with Morgan however prove he is still as arrogant in several funny scenes.

I really love the character of Mrs Moyahan. I've a great respect for writers who include such pathetic characters that are destined to fail despite their criminal intentions. Her accent is terrifically OTT and the sudden twist of her involvement is well plotted enough to keep it a surprise. Her speeches in episode four leading up to her death are brilliantly overdone. It makes her death that more upsetting... especially the method.

Clever, involving and quite scary, this is a terrific Big Finish production. It might be a bit wordy in places but the script is full of memorable dialogue and wonderful character. The star studded cast provide great performances and the sound effects match the quality of the rest of the production. It's both nostalgic and looking forward and continues the upward trend of the sixth Doctor's reign as audio supreme.

Doctor Who on the telly is terrifically engaging and imaginative. Doctor Who on audio has these attributes but manages to do so without embarassing us. So c'mon give it a chance... you may just experience the best Doctor Who work you've ever had.

A Review by John Seavey 1/11/03

I wanted to like this one, I really did. In part one, I thought, "Once the writer gets past his unfortunate need to regurgitate all the research he did for this, it'll get better." In part two, I thought, "All this stuff with the mansion and the guy with the plan to rule the world by taking over everyone's mind has to tie in with the main plot about the buried alien eventually." In part three, I thought, "All this has to be building towards something, right?" But by part four, it all fell apart -- the B-plot never connected back to the A-plot, save for the point where the alien villain kills off the human villain; the story meanders and plods a lot; the final battle between the Brigadier and the alien is very weak, and the solution to the problem weaker; there's a huge plot hole in the whole thing (the alien's been dormant for millennia because he needs his focusing element to re-summon his ship ...but how did he lose the focusing element to begin with? Why didn't he just summon back his ship thirty seconds after it took off?); and, of course, that dreadful ending. "One thing hasn't changed, Doctor; we still make a good team." Ah, that must be the end. "You mean you two know each other?" "It's a long story." Ah, Evelyn's about to be filled in on the Doctor and the Brigadier's history. That must be the end. "Well, you can tell me about it inside. Perhaps the Brigadier could use his influence to get the inn to make us some food?" OK, where is he going with this? "Sounds good. A spot of tea would go over well." Did someone not tell him that this should end at some point? "Well, I'd like some hot chocolate." ...and it just goes on like this. I guess they were just a minute or two short on time or something.

A Review by Ron Mallett 17/6/05

Written and directed by Nicholas Pegg, this is a well-crafted production. The key of course is a good script. Drawing on stories of little people, Cornish pixies and the like, the story is one of those that was a staple of Who in the past: a story that attempts to provide a rational explanation for the events of the past.

The fan-oriented attraction is of course the meeting between the 6th Doctor and the Brigadier. Just as there is chemistry between Colin Baker and Maggie Stables, there is a definite spark between Colin and Nicholas Courtney. It makes one pine for a television meeting that never took place. Courtney's performance is a little tired though, as if he is just going through the motions for a bit of spare cash. Colin of course, gives it everything as he always has done. Maggie in her role of Evelyn makes a perfect foil for the hero.

The backing cast seem a little bland, all except for the main protaganist, Toby Longworth who plays the villain Sancreda. His chuckle is truly chilling. Alistair Lock truly outshines himself and must take a little of the credit for the effectiveness of the central performance as well.

It does smack a little of early Big Finish in that it is a bit minimalist and comes across as a little like a stage play. Still I would rather listen to this than say some of the more pretentious productions that shall remain nameless.

A Review by Brian May 6/10/06

I appreciate what writer Nicholas Pegg is trying to do in The Spectre of Lanyon Moor - return to an old-fashioned, English countryside horror/sci-fi blended Doctor Who adventure. By all means it's well acted, directed, characterised and all the technical mastering - audio effects, sound mixing etc. - is very good. It's just the story itself that's a disappointment: it fails in recapturing the feel of such a tale, in the vein of stories like The Daemons, Image of the Fendahl, The Stones of Blood (Leamington-Smith is name checked, and is Professor Morgan meant to be Amelia Rumford's academic rival - the one she calls "that fool"?) and The Awakening. Rarely when listening to this production did I grasp any sense of atmosphere. Hardly ever is it eerie, frightening, or any other description entailing fear or dread.

The music is decidedly un-spooky; the exception being in part two when Evelyn details her findings on the haunted history of the moor. But overall it's not the Gothic tale that Pegg wants it to be. I'd like to say it's simply down to the lack of visuals - we can't see the fog, or the rolling moors, or the ghastly Imp creatures - but it's more than that. It just doesn't chill. The voices of Sancreda and its various manifestations are convincingly alien, but they're not convincingly scary, while the Sir Archibald sub-plot seems too tacked on and is accordingly removed at a sudden and convenient point. The beginning is the biggest disappointment - Pegg concludes his comments on the CD packaging with "We join the TARDIS as she touches down on a windswept hillside..." - well, we don't actually. We start with Sancreda apparently being abandoned by its partner. It's one of the most unnecessary prologues ever; with mentions of spacecraft and telekinetic transfers we know these creatures are a) aliens, b) technologically advanced aliens and c) one or more of these aliens will be the reason Lanyon Moor is haunted. In the aforementioned televised adventures the being turned out to be an alien, of course, but not without a substantial build-up. Why couldn't we have skipped this opening and gone straight to the TARDIS touching down on the hillside? In the story's favour the climax is quite good, but that's only because the attempted horror factor has already been discarded in favour of the typical sci-fi showdown.

But it's well acted throughout, with some memorable guest turns. Even though Colin Baker doesn't quite get the sort of adventure the writer wanted him to have, it's more engaging than most of his televised stories. His telling off of Morgan, and the begrudging apology at Evelyn's instruction - which isn't really an apology at all - is a great sixth Doctor moment. Maggie Stables' charming performance continues to ensure Evelyn is a welcome companion. If you assume away Dimensions in Time, it's great to finally have a sixth Doctor/Brigadier team-up, with Nicholas Courtney making (yet) another fine comeback as the Brigadier. It certainly is a nice partnership, with him and Baker playing off each other marvellously.

The Spectre of Lanyon Moor is definitely not poor, but it doesn't succeed in capturing the author's intended atmosphere and therefore it comes across as nothing more than average. It's overlong, this being around the time the Big Finish stories increased their episode lengths; in my opinion a major mistake. If you listen to this story believing the writer's promises you'll be disappointed; otherwise you're in for a relatively entertaining but wholly unremarkable experience. 6.5/10

Blood and Thunder Days Long Passed by Jacob Licklider 10/2/17

One of my absolute favorite stories involves a monster in a lake with the local nobility being part of a larger conspiracy to take over the world with shapeshifting aliens and the Doctor's companions being there to stop it with UNIT taking an interest. That story is of course Terror of the Zygons and shares many plot similarities with The Spectre of Lanyon Moor. Nicholas Pegg takes the plot outline for the first episode out of Terror of the Zygons, but that's really where the similarity ends. The plot of the story sees the Doctor, with a cold, take Evelyn to a Cornwall archeological site where phantoms have been appearing to the crew, scaring them out of their heads. They've called in Brigadier Lethebridge-Stewart, retired, to unofficially investigate the proceedings. The story that follows involves an abandoned alien who only wants to find a way to get back home, while two noblemen are experimenting to get the power of the alien.

The story is nothing too special in terms of plot, but the imagery it conjures up is very realistic, as you can feel the emotions of the characters. This is also apparent with the deaths in this story, as they are depicted gruesomely with death screams and revolting in horror at the mess of bodies left behind. The acting is top notch as well, with the first real meeting of the Sixth Doctor and the Brigadier. The Brigadier of course recognizes the Doctor immediately from his fashion sense, and Nicholas Courtney's performance with Colin Baker is the real highlight of the story. The Brigadier knows the Doctor knows better, but would never describe him as arrogant, as arrogance indicates ignorance. While the two of them have met up in the novels, it can be inferred for continuity's sake that they have been meeting out of order hence why the Brigadier recognizes the Doctor. Even with a cold, Colin Baker is giving it his all in the performance and is loving the chance to work with Nicholas Courtney.

Maggie Stables' Evelyn Smythe is given a lot to do in this story. If this was Terror of the Zygons, she would be in the role of Sarah Jane Smith, investigating the mysterious goings on and going out on her own to solve the problems. Yes she does get captured and is very near to being tortured, but, with her usual sass and crafty mind, she is able to get out of the situation. The supporting cast of the story is also very interesting. Yes the alien voices, done by master voice actor Toby Longworth, are a bit too over the top, but it adds to the story, especially considering he plays three different parts. The other villain of the piece is the housekeeper Mrs. Moynihan, played by Susan Jameson. She's basically a modern-day feminist wanting power and has some of the stories best lines. She sneaks her way past UNIT soldiers by walking her dogs and doesn't care if she has to get her hands dirty to get what she wants.

The story was written and directed by Nicholas Pegg who it seems was trying to recreate the atmosphere of the Philip Hinchcliffe era of the show. He succeeds masterfully, as the atmosphere is thick with fog and gothic horrors as everything starts to go wrong. It feels a lot like The Hound of the Baskervilles, as the story takes place on a quiet moor. Pegg's directing flair is definitely different from Gary Russell and Nicholas Briggs, as Pegg is much subtler in what he tries to accomplish with the story. Unlike the other Big Finish stories, the music is used sparingly and only comes in to accent a point. The sound design and music by Alistair Lock is done subtly, which helps add to the atmosphere. Honestly, the word that comes to mind when thinking of the story is "subtle", as it lets the atmosphere creep into you as you get wrapped up in the mystery of the monster.

The story, however, does have quite a few flaws. First off, the first episode is a quick remake of Terror of the Zygons, which doesn't really grab your attention as you just want to put on that story instead. The doubling up of cast members also makes it a bit more difficult to distinguish different characters from each other. Pegg also wrote in too many characters, so some of them just drop off and reappear at other points. There are also some twists that would only work on audio that are executed poorly.

To summarize, The Spectre of Lanyon Moor is a real treat of an audio that finally gives fans an interaction between the Sixth Doctor and the Brigadier. The performances are great, and the direction and music make for a unique experience. It does borrow plot points from better stories and doesn't do much more to stick out from the crowd than novelty. 72/100