By Mark Morris
Reviewied By @WickedlyAce
The Story opens up to the sounds of insects which makes one immediately think of either a meadow or large grounds the slight chill in the air means they have landed in the Autumnal season of October … “Nothing finer!” The Doctor explains. The year: 1911 - at that time that was generally the hunting, fishing, and shooting, season amongst the upper classes of English society. The Doctor walks out cheerful and happy as he informs Nyssa they have landed in Suffolk: England. Understandably Nyssa is rather fed up of always ending up on Earth and sulkily says: “We’re on Earth … again?” leading some people, including the writers of the Vortex magazine to make comparisons with Tegan which, I think are fully justified but I see that as a positive rather than a negative. Soon they encounter a lioness: “Brave Heart, Nyssa!” The Doctor exclaims as Nyssa does not know what to do to help the Doctor, “Have faith, Nyssa, I usually get on well with cats,” Nyssa is rather skeptical, the lioness launches herself at our two intrepid stories - consequently the lioness gets shot by Nathaniel Whitlock, the owner of the Estate they have landed in - next to him a Sioux Warrior name Silvercrow.
A carriage draws up with two men. Father and son: Hector (son) and Edwin Tremayne. Edwin is arrogant, puffed up, pusillanimous and bullies Hector mercilessly about how useless he is and how he will never amount to anything. Nyssa is concerned about how brutal the killing of the lioness was. Hector wants to listen to her thoughts and feelings but Edwin cuts her down by calling her childish and impertinent the Doctor jumps to Nyssa’s defense disabusing Edwin of his bigoted opinions. Nyssa tries to get to know Hector but Edwin takes over the conversation she is horrified at slaughtering animals for pleasure.
Scene cuts to the interior of the Manor where a young woman approaches a rather stoic older woman - the young woman, Phoebe Whitlock is the daughter of the owner of the grounds - the older woman is Ms Bartholomew who wears breeches and waistcoats, in those days that sent a clear message to the world what she was - Phoebe does not care and is rather fascinated by her. Enter the Tremaynes, The Doctor and Nyssa - Nyssa is offered a drink, she goes for something tame (surely she should have used the opportunity to ask for a Screwdriver?)
From here on you get the sense that Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were the main inspiration to this story as it has the exact formula - huge manor, eccentric people, a rather mysterious artefact. The Doctor and Nyssa are rather like Holmes and Watson, Poirot and Hastings.
Later that night Nyssa is shown to her room on the Fourth Floor - Nyssa finds it strange there are no servants in the house. Phoebe explains the odd wooden faces and who they represent in Native American Mythology (remember these, they are important!)
Much later Nyssa is tossing and turning and a scream shatters the peace of night - everyone gathers to the source …
Immediately at this point I had to find out what happened next - never one to miss the opportunity …
Part one was thrilling, a great way to introduce us to a group of people that will only be one-offs - immediately a picture forms in your head of what these characters looks like - what they represent and the house itself, just close your eyes and think of a house that is filled with miscellaneous objects from around the world - artifacts that show how far travelled Nathaniel Whitlock is. At this point you think of Nathaniel as a rather selfish being who leaves his only daughter alone and vulnerable in a large somewhat spooky house just to appease his desire to kill the biggest exotic animal he can find.
The source of the scream was the rather stoic Ms Bartholomew - a member of a little club known as The Order of the Crescent Moon, an organisation dedicated to finding alien life on Earth - 1911 was the era for these sorts of theories due to the huge success of HG Wells. When everyone had gone to bed she had stolen the Moonflesh to chip bits off (an action that has major consequences and drives the plot) we find out that Silvercrow is 38 and has reason for being attached to the Moonflesh.
It turns out that the Moonflesh can actually enter non sentient beings to make them move - so anything can literally be powered alive by the Moonflesh. Upon this information a hunt is organised to destroy the animals in the park the next day.
Whilst all this was going on Hector tries to help Phoebe but blunders the attempt.
The next day they are on a hunt, the Doctor is with them and refuses a gun: “In my experience it is hard to make friends if someone is pointing a gun at them,” he declares as he hopes the Moonflesh can say its side of the story.
Nyssa and Phoebe are left on their own and Nyssa says to Phoebe she understands how hard it is not to have parents as her’s died. Then dispenses relationship advice … this is the same character that, in the television series, had no love interest so I found it slightly odd that this 16 - 18 year old who has not been in, love so we are given to understand, offers sensible advice to Phoebe about how to attract Hector - unless you count the Doctor (in two Audio’s I’ve listened to both make it quite clear they are just friends, which makes me wonder if they do protest too much? In 1911 Nyssa could have said she was his ‘sister’ or ‘cousin’ and that she calls him Doctor to be respectful - a woman and a man were not ‘just friends’ and travelled together without causing eyebrows to raise, just a little etiquette quirke that gets me with modern values put in historical content!)
On the hunt a gorilla springs up out of nowhere to attack the group - influenced by the Moonflesh - Tremayne, Hector’s father, gets seriously injured by the giant ape, and Nathaniel Whitlock tries to destroy the Gorilla but it doesn’t work. The hunting party has to take Edwin back to Nathaniel’s house as the Moonflesh has left the animal and is now heading back towards the house. Silvercrow follows the Doctor and is wonder at the TARDIS.
Nyssa then states at how traveling with The Doctor has changed her - explaining that she used to be patient, and has lost the ability to relax (I can imagine the Master has had a good deal with that too, to be fair!) The Moonflesh is now seeking another source and is hounding Nyssa and Portia - Portia is being protected by Nyssa using a fire poker, an image that I may draw someday.
Portia is now Moonflesh … as red mist descends like rain …
This part sets up the characters developments rather brilliantly as we hear Nathaniel Whitlock and Edwin Tremayne arguing vehemently two powerful stick in the mud men explaining how distasteful they find each other. The Doctor breezes in offering some light relief: “Is this a private argument or can anyone join in?” he asks. Nyssa informs the Doctor of Phoebe’s possession and it turns out the Moonflesh is Vetus and is on the run from others of it’s kind.
Edwin Tremayne is told that he cannot leave the house on no condition whatsoever but he is stiff necked and wants to go to hospital. Reason being is that the ‘other’s’ of Vetus kind has tracked him down and, whilst the others are obedient in the Doctor’s instructions to seal the house against the invaders, Ms Bartholomew has been tempted by a £1000 bribe offered to her society by Edwin to leave the house, (£1000 was a lot more then than it is now) and, whilst attempting to help is also working for Tremayne.
Meanwhile Phoebe is safely stored in her room. Nyssa inquires what the Doctor has in mind, and becomes Tegan-esque in her disdain for the Doctor’s phrase of a ‘dicey plan’.
In order to save Phoebe the Doctor offers Vetus himself as a host but his Timelord defenses are too strong for possession - (the Doctor can only be possessed by other Timelords it seems) so Nyssa steps up and says she will host Vetus due to her Psychic abilities, (on TARDIS Wiki - it states that her mother Lucina died whilst giving birth to Nyssa because of her STRONG Physic abilities even as a baby! Which again, begs the question, why the Master did not implore Nyssa to be Melkur’s handmaiden instead of that useless Kassia?)
Oh yes, the Moonflesh is imperious to bullets - yet another Alien, Doctor? the Brigadier would have wryly stated …
The other fragments of Moonflesh, now trapped, has entered into the wooden carvings of the Native American Gods (told they were important!)
The Doctor, on his way to the TARDIS with a possessed Nyssa and Silvercrow in tow casually informs Vetus of the telepathic circuits of the TARDIS. It reveals Vetus real personality …
The Beast is Free …
The other Moonflesh reveals that Vetus is a rogue element that needs to be contained. Otherwise there would be no end to his vile acts.
The Moonflesh exists in a cluster, and there are a billion in a cluster all with strong telepathic, psychic abilities (imagine the Master knowing about these … one shudders!)
I am loathe to continue with plot from here on in as this is like spoiling the final ten minutes of a film or, if you are sports fan, casually dropping in that so and so let in a goal and that person got a red card and affected the final score of the overall match.
If this last part were televised it would make awesome viewing as the story turns from mis-adventure in a big house to an even more wonderful journey of the mind into a dreamscape - something which makes both Silvercrow and The Doctor rather catatonic whilst Hector, Phoebe, Nathaniel, Nyssa and Ms Bartholomew are protecting their friends from potential harm by batting off various creatures amongst a swirling storm of viscous red cloud …
To me this was like Kinda in LSD - and Kinda was weird enough. Energetic, imaginative, had a spot of romance and was rather fantastical mixing the spiritual and the logical perfectly - which Nyssa was brought up to believe was an equal balance.
I love how Nyssa refers to her parents death - that Tremas is still in her mind because that is what irked me somewhat about the television series - Nyssa does not even really cry - so thank you Big Finish for making these references and making Nyssa remember her father, always. I know that she does not have a son called Tremas (I hope one day she does, Tremas sacrifice SHOULD NOT be forgotten!)
I loved how this story made you think that one minute a character was going to be all right then not and then the character that you think is in the clear is actually not - twists and turns, and atmospheric house - possession, logical conclusion and at least five on the edge of your seat moments and those are the ones I can remember.
If Kinda is one of your favourite classic Who stories - then this is the one for you!