Doctor Who: Zaltys - Review

It isn't very often that I find myself judging a Doctor Who story because of its title but if Zaltys strikes you as dull and uninspiring then fear not, for that is exactly what it is!

The real problem of Zaltys can be summed up quite easily, it is a story which doesn't know what to do. The story's villain is a Necro-Biological called Clarimonde who had previously met the Third Doctor and Jo in an unseen adventure. She spends the entirety of the story longing for her revenge against the Doctor, abducting one of his companions and instructing her lackey to keep the Doctor alive just so she can personally drink his blood. Everything gets nicely set up for their confrontation but she gets killed before they meet and the story abruptly ends. And this isn't an attempt to wrong-foot the audience either, there isn't an alternative threat which gets introduced and absolutely no reason given for us to expect anything new. So one is forced to wonder why the writer, Matthew J Elliott foreshadowed their history so much. And then the story goes to great pains to remind us that Adric has experience in fighting vampires but never makes them meet!

The plot doesn't fare much better, not least because it takes until episode three for the actual threat to be revealed. The people of Zaltys have been duped into putting their population into cryogenic suspension, thinking that a meteor is coming to wipe them out if they don't. But the meteor is actually the ship carrying the vampires who plan to land on the planet and feed on the sleeping population who will know nothing about it. But then Adric figures out that the meteor isn't a meteor in all of eight seconds. Now, I know Adric was a mathematical genius and all but didn't anyone on the actual planet notice. Adric just looks at some data, didn't anyone else?

Zaltys is a deeply insular society who doesn't like to interact with other species. This understandably upsets Perrualt, played by Sean Barrett, so he orchestrates the mass suspension of his people just so that he can become a vampire?! This seems more than a trifle excessive and it turns what could have been a really interesting character into nothing more than a raving maniac.

The only character who is remotely interesting here is Gevaudan, played by Philip Franks, a telepathic Vulpine who mourns the lost of his mate and pack. I was glad to hear that his mate was actually another male, something like this to be included in a story supposed to be set in the 1980s run is quite a bold move and it is even more pleasing how each character just takes this part of him in their stride. His relationship with Nyssa is equally as compelling as it explores the latent telepathy side of her nature.

Poor Tegan gets side-lined for the entire adventure, spending most of the story running around the vampire's ship trying to get away from her hunters. Even the Doctor remains oddly passive here and when he can't come up with a solution, it falls to one of the guest characters to sort everything out!

What really is a pity is the script because the actual production is top-notch. Barnaby Edwards remains one of the strongest directors in Big Finish's arsenal and there is a particularly strong guest cast assembled here. The sound design from Steve Foxton is splendid also.

It is a shame then that for a story spanning planets and featuring a universal threat, that it spends most of its time plodding along with no sense of real urgency or a coherent script. Not only is the story about nothing in particular it doesn't seem to want to be about anything in particular. It is just a lot of loose puzzle pieces, around which some uneventful stuff happens until it is time for the story to end. It is not very often that I really criticize any plays put out by Big Finish for giving us stories that seem pointless but Zaltys is a big offender...