Big Finish have a penchant for resurrecting Classic Doctor Who villains who were never really popular to begin with and redeem them in some way. They made the Myrka an actual threat in Bloodtide, the Celestial Toymaker in Solitaire and The Magic Mousetrap and the Vardans in The First Wave, but here Paul Cornell brings back a laughably silly villain from the final broadcast story of the Graham Williams era and makes them be an actual threat for the Doctor to face in a shocking plot twist that is excellently pulled off, even though you can see it coming a mile away. The plot involves the Doctor finally getting Charley to Singapore where she meets up with the guy she was going to meet in Storm Warning while the Doctor goes onto a terrace to watch the sunset where he meets Sebastian Grayle an immortal who claims to have screwed up the timeline and killed the Doctor for his mysterious masters, with the implication that it is the Doctor’s interference with Charley and the R101 is the cause of this. The story then basically vaults into a series of three stories exploring the history of Britain and a fourth story to wrap the plot up in a nice little bow.
First up is the origin story of Sebastian Grayle in Britain under Roman occupation where Decurian Grayle, who is soon to be Sebastian, is entering the order of Mithras who is famous for slaying a demon bull. He however is getting help from an alien species who want to rule the world when the stars align allowing them to come to Earth to invade and it is of course up to the Doctor to stop him, which he does of course. It ends on the cliffhanger of the aliens still being trapped, but Grayle becoming closer to the Grayle seen in the opening scenes. The only characters of note other than the main two and our villain who I will get to near the end are Marcus and Lucillius played by Stephen Fewell and Robert Curbishley who are your standard comic relief characters that Cornell and Symcox use to do a commentary on the ever changing religions of the world which is perfectly fine.
The second story takes place during the reign of Edward the Confessor and his wife Edith played by Lennox Greaves and Sue Wallace respectively where Grayle is a bishop who has been mining plutonium so he can slowly kill the king and queen at a dinner. This story really paints a great picture of Britain in the Dark Ages. The relationship between the Doctor and Edith is great as the Doctor is still the breathless romantic that we know and love and Edith thought him talking to her as an equal was a proposal to marriage and on finding it is not even years later is still a bit bitter. This and the following story are also great for Charley to stretch her comedic flair with some great jokes that made me laugh.
The third story takes place in the 1800s and while there is nothing wrong with it, it just is a character piece to get us to the conclusion about the Doctor and Grayle having a duel which nearly kills him and leads them into the fourth story in the TARDIS where the Nimon are revealed to be the villains. I won’t give away how the story ends because it is just so clever, but the characters in this story are great. Richard and Lucy Martin are two conmen who want Grayle’s money by getting married and stealing the dowry which are just fascinating and definitely the highlight of the story.
Paul McGann as the Doctor is great as he serves as our narrator for this outing and as he’s going through history he is having the time of his life. India Fisher’s Charley is great here as she is very independent. She wields a sword, but makes no sense of the TARDIS controls as they are something out of Jules Verne. Stephen Perring as Grayle steals the show as he is effectively playing three different versions of the same character. Each is more evil than the last starting from a misguided man who has lost any faith to someone who just wants to kill the puny mortals as he thinks he is above them. Perring has one of those voices that is just hypnotic in its inflection and diction. You can just tell Perring has a voice to make anyone melt completely and the end credits scene is particular stand out.
To summarize, Seasons of Fear is a great way for someone to explore some historical periods connected by a great story with some villains that get to be redeemed after a very bad first appearance. The acting is great with several fleshed out characters who really feel like they are real. The story has some horrifying implications for the continuation of the arc and makes it more noticeable that the Zagreus rhyme will have something to do with the arc’s conclusion. 100/100