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 with 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 unique 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 story 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