If you want something doing, don’t leave it to your former selves to sort out.
At the end of the previous adventure for Evelyn and the Sixth Doctor, The Crimes of Thomas Brewster, the eponymous neer-do-well carjacked the TARDIS at gunpoint and insisted that he be taken back to his own time (one can just see the humiliating headlines on the front page of the Gallifreyan Times). The Doctor rejects this out of hand – and not just because he hasn’t been asked nicely (though the gun isn’t actually loaded) but in fear of what Thomas could do with all his advanced knowledge if sent back to Victorian England. Before the Doctor can decide what to do the trio are taken off course when a vessel from Earth’s future punches a whole into the time loop in which the organic gestalt entity Axos has been imprisoned for the last 100 years.
The Axons, dayglo energy vampires from the Jon Pertwee era, are quickly re-awakened when they sense the energy of the boarding party from ruthless industrialist Cambell Irons, who in the guise of space tourism plan to tap Axonite as a source of cheap energy. The Doctor rather foolishly is trapped and engulfed by Axos (played, as in 1972, by the wonderful Bernard Holley), leading to his being replicated, affording Baker the chance to play a dual role. This development is lots of fun but admittedly doesn’t forward the plot much, which can probably be said about much of this Big Finish release to be honest. The Doctor is back to himself soon as Axos is still too weak to fully absorb more than just a bit of a Time Lord, especially a somewhat chunky one at that. He and Evelyn try to get the team sent by Irons back on the spacecraft without much success as Axos soon turns the table and plans once again to bleed earth dry. The Doctor and Evelyn are soon separated from Brewster who predictably seems to take the path of least resistance and aligns himself with the semi-dormant Axons – it’s the developing relationship between the Doctor and Brewster that is the main focus here, with Evelyn placed as the mediator between them.
The story as scripted by Mike Maddox is well in keeping with the style of its 1972 progenitor The Claws of Axos by ‘Bristol Boys’ Bob Baker and Dave Martin, and is patterned quite closely both in terms of its leisurely plot development and occasionally unspeakable dialogue (‘Acces to Axos outside’), but this makes for a welcome contrast to the breathless, action packed installment that preceded it – this stately approach really pays off in a classic part three cliffhanger in which, with horrible slowness, Evelyn stumbles during her EVA and seems to be headed for inevitable doom as she wanders off into space. This is wonderfully played by the leads and their distraught farewells in the face of a seemingly inevitable death is the highlight of this release – closely followed by a superb score by Jamie Robertson that matches the expansive science fiction landscape with a thrilling full-blooded symphonic score that is a tribute to the composer and the magic of modern synthesiser sampling. Disc 1 includes a suite of his music and makes for a very welcome extra.
At the risk of repeating my comments on the preceding adventure in the series, this is Highly recommended.