Miracle in the Desert

Review of The Eye of the Scorpion (#24)
Big Finish Release Date: Sep 2001
Doctor/Companion: Five and Peri
Stars: Peter Davison and Nicola Bryant
Preceding Story: Project: Twilight (Six, Evelyn)
Succeeding Story: Colditz (Seven, Ace)

Big Finish has achieved something I didn't think was possible: they made an entire story in which I didn't cringe at/actively dislike Peri. In fact, I was into Part Three before I realized that's what was happening. I guess y'all can officially add me to the list of folks who (at this moment) think she was better paired with the Fifth Doctor than the Sixth.

Aside from that amazing feat, The Eye of the Scorpion is in itself an enjoyable adventure. While in flight, the TARDIS inexplicably changes course. Upon review, it appears the Doctor is responsible, but he has no idea when or how he might have done so.

Soon they land in Egypt, circa 1400 BCE. In typical Doctor form, they accidentally ingratiate themselves with the yet-to-be-crowned Pharaoh, a young woman named Erimem (Caroline Morris). But the Doctor knows the names of all the Pharaohs—especially the female ones, who were few and far between—and hers is not a one he recognizes.

As is so often the case when the Doctor appears, there's political unrest in the land. An opposing army threatens the borders of Thebes and someone tries to assassinate Erimem, claiming he follows "the true Pharaoh," thus planting the seed of doubt among her people. Throw in an alien being at work behind the scenes and you have a classic pseudo-historical.

What The Eye of the Scorpion *doesn't* have is a clear explanation for its title. Granted, scorpions make a cameo appearance, but I didn't hear anything that ever specifically referenced any of their ocular organs, let alone connected them to An Eye. Perhaps I was simply distracted at the key moment, but it seems to me if you're going to name an entire adventure after something, it had better not be a blink-and-you'll-miss-it (or whatever the auditory equivalent of blinking is) moment.

One is led to believe all along that Erimem will die before ascending the throne, though since it's not terribly common to axe key guest characters, I didn't really believe they would. I had an idea about how they might resolve that particular plot point, but it proved wrong in a way that honestly surprised me [Spoiler Alert]: Erimem joins the TARDIS team.

Davison's Fifth Doctor is on form, calm and collected during crisis, and showing off some of the knowledge and skills (e.g., his chariot-driving prowess) that come from a long life spent traveling. As mentioned above, Bryant's Peri is self-confident and a little sassy without being whiny or grating. (Though on the note of sass, how she gets away mouthing off at the priest of Horus is beyond me. And did the Egyptians have justice proceedings that hinged on (modern ideas of) evidence and motive? But I digress...)

Bryant has a second role, as well—in her natural accent, thank the holies—which allows her to show off some of the diversity of her talent. The supporting cast is also as top-notch as usual, and Jonathan Owen's silky voice was just Brigadier-like enough to make me take a particular shine to Antranak.

All in all, The Eye of the Scorpion is worth a listen. It provides the feel of a good televised four-parter (I particularly liked the cliffhanger at the end of Part Three), solid characterizations, and enough twists to stay interesting. I'm looking forward to more from this TARDIS team.



PaulGreaves's picture

...the next chronological story for this TARDIS team is the excellent The Church and the Crown, however there is a BF half hour DWM freebie that slotted between them called No Place Like Home, which is a nice coda to Scorpion or prelude to Church, whichever way you want to look at it. You can download it for free here: http://www.bigfinish.com/search_results?txtSearch=no+place+like+home&x=0...

By PaulGreaves --



mrfranklin's picture

Thanks for the link. :)

By mrfranklin
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