January 2001 really began a high streak for Big Finish with nearly two years of releases containing the first two seasons of Paul McGann audios, the introduction of a new companion for the Fifth Doctor, the return of Melanie Bush, some of the more emotional stories in their catalogue, set up a cliffhanger that would take a total of eighteen months to actually pay off, and only suffer two bad releases in that period of time, but all good things have to come to an end eventually. This is where Big Finish took a breath with the powerhouse releases that they had been churning out and while it was definitely unintentional as the premise wouldn’t be traditional, the story they released was a very traditional piece in the format of arrive on the planet and save the oppressed. It isn’t like Simon A Forward is trying to make his piece traditional, that’s how it comes across with many of the characters being pretty much the same character.
The premise of the story is that the Doctor takes Evelyn to the Clutch a giant planet/spaceship that is controlled by the Galyari, who are giant lizards that fear the Doctor as the Sandman, a creature that will eat their hides. Of course the Doctor cannot be the Sandman, which is the attitude of Evelyn who knows the Doctor is pompous, but isn’t a murderer and wouldn’t even kill the most evil of creature. This is the main aspect of the story that slightly tips it above the average 50/100 mark as this is something Big Finish almost had to do as it shows us that the Sixth Doctor isn’t that bad of a guy. This allows the highlight of the story to be Maggie Stables as Evelyn which is great because Evelyn is such a great character and even if the story she is in isn’t as good she is the one giving it her all which she did until she died. The same can be said for Colin Baker as the Doctor as he is allowed to slip into a darker persona and actually have a dramatic flair for it. He is clearly giving this story his all and as the evil Sandman he is great especially when he has to get himself out of situations caused by the impersonator.
The supporting cast is mainly a flaw with the story as there are four actors playing the Galyari and the only one who sounds slightly different is Anneke Wills as Director Nrosha who is actually a really good character. The Galyari as a species work, but not as individual characters because they act like a species. I could easily see them return, but not in the purpose they served in this story as it is very boring with them in it. Mordecan and Mintaru serve as our almost comedic double act with Mintaru being a rodent and Mordecan being a space gypsy. Their double act is in a very Robert Holmes like style not unlike Garron and Unstoffe from The Ribos Operation or Glitz and Dibber from The Mysterious Planet. It feels like they are real people and they are the ones more than anyone else in this story that I would like to see return.
This story has one glaring problem in that after you peel away the somewhat interesting character stuff with the Doctor in the middle of Part Three you realize just how traditional the story is. I mean the villain finally shows up after no real buildup and is defeated much like in Timelash with it just being dragged out. I don’t even remember why the villain did what he did as it is all explained in an exposition dump that is extremely boring. You can also tell that it is Gary Russell directing as the story feels more dull compared to the last few stories directed by other people with different styles.
To summarize, The Sandman is harmless as a story as it really just is a traditional romp with nothing really developed to any point of enjoyment. The acting is alright with a few people standing out of the crowd and there are some good ideas present, but it is pretty skippable. 55/100