Monday, February 29, 2016

Winter for the Adept by: Andrew Cartmel directed by: Gary Russell: Trapped in the Ghost Academy

Winter for the Adept stars Peter Davison as the Doctor and Sarah Sutton as Nyssa with Peter Jurasik as Lt. Peter Sandoz.  It was written by Andrew Cartmel, directed by Gary Russell and released in July 2000 by Big Finish Productions.


Andrew Cartmel is someone you wouldn’t think would be writing a Fifth Doctor adventure.  Known best for script editing Seasons 25 and 26 of the Classic Series, writing a trilogy of Virgin New Adventures and penning three of the four Lost Season 27 Stories, you would think he would write for the Seventh Doctor.  Even though he is out of his usual element Cartmel really shows how much he understands the differences between the different Doctors masterfully.  The script early on looks like it might be suffering from having the wrong Doctor and companion with the names switched around with the Doctor withholding information from Nyssa and not appearing until Part Two, but it is eventually revealed he didn’t actually know what was going on and didn’t have a master plan. It feels very much in line with the Fifth Doctor as throughout Season 19 he was trying to get Tegan home but was never able to do so until the end of the season.  The story fits nicely into that seasonal gap and like a real start to the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa adventures Big Finish would give us after the false start that was The Land of the Dead.


Winter for the Adept’s plot sees Nyssa teleported to a school in the French Alps which has been snowed in and is being haunted.  The Doctor eventually follows on and they get wrapped up in an adventure with telepathic aliens called the Spillage and the ghost of a mountain climber.  Cartmel’s script does its best in two regards, the characters and the atmosphere of the story.  As I said Cartmel understands the differences between the different incarnations of the Doctor and the way he does the Fifth Doctor is very similar to the way Robert Holmes and Christopher Bailey saw him.  This allows Peter Davison to flex his acting chops and he is obviously having a ball with the script.  Sarah Sutton also gets to have a good time as she doesn’t understand Earth culture and has to help in an all-girls school without the Doctor.  She doesn’t believe in ghosts and knows that there must be a scientific explanation for everything that’s going on.


The supporting cast is also great with standout being Ms. Tremayne played by Sally Faulkner, who is a religious zealot.  Now you would think they would make her go through some sort of character arc broadening her horizons, but no she dies halfway through which is a shame as Faulkner is a really good actress.  Next we have the double act of Allison and Peril played by Liz Sutherland and India Fisher respectively who are two girls with telepathic powers stuck in the school for Christmas.  Peril is the more mischievous of the two as she wants to escape the school to get married with a mountaineer and ends up causing the most trouble throughout the story.  Allison is the naïve girl as she wants something more and tries her hardest to sneak into the TARDIS.  She’s honestly a really boring character especially when paired with Peril as India Fisher has one of those voices that is always intrigued.  You also have the ghost Harding Wellman played by Chris Webber who is just sort of comic relief as he is accidentally doing the haunting of the school.  The villains of the piece are the Spillage which is a very boring villain as they’re motivation is to take over the world.


The direction and music of the story really add to the atmosphere as it feels a lot like the closing scene of Survival.  It’s a sort of melancholy that just pervades every atom of your being and you can get lost in it.  There are however quite a few problems in the story as the frame story really could have been cut as it doesn’t add much and the story takes a long time to get going.


To summarize Winter for the Adept is a fascinating character piece that only really fails in getting going with some great dialogue and characters who get explored to their fullest.  The story can be described as romantic in the classic sense of stirring emotions and is quite underrated.  82/100

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