Taking the TARDIS team of Season Four to a space casino is an interesting way for Steve Lyons to explore their characters in a different way. The story of House of Cards is a twofold plot. The first plot involves Polly going into time high jinx with a time traveler while time travel is outlawed in this casino while the second concerns Ben Jackson getting into debt with the Sidewinder Syndicate, those in charge of the casino and is taken to the Game of Life where he has to compete until his debt is repaid or he dies, whichever comes first. Of course the situation really works well as the plots intertwine with the sinister Miss Fortune being the figurehead behind the casino and all our hero’s problems, and Polly trying her hardest not to change things around with the story. The Sidewinder Syndicate are interesting villains being taken from the 1960s. They are giant snakes that were once stuck in Chicago during the Prohibition so when they came back to the future, they’ve become gangsters. Anneke Wills with quite a lot of voice modulation is excellent at the snakes, giving them these nice hissing sounds on the s’s quite like the Ice Warriors yet distinct. If I had to complain I would say there could have been just a little less on the voice modulation because it does get in the way of Anneke Wills’ acting. Wills also plays Miss Fortune using her natural voice plus a little accent to make the character feel terrifying. Miss Fortune is a character that had to be done that way, but I would have preferred that she was played by a different actress, even if it was just Lisa Bowerman.
Lyons does an excellent job of making each of the four main cast distinct from each other. Ben Jackson like in The Macra Terror is the one to be put under the hypnotic influence of the casino. He is the one in the story from the working class so does have a lot to do with gambling. It really works with the character of a sailor that the original series did with him which is of course how Anneke Wills plays him. Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon actually tries to be the voice of reason for Ben while he’s gambling. Jamie knows about gambling houses and knows how people are swindlers and cheats, but Ben doesn’t listen. As Ben is put out of action Lyons has Jamie be the one to save a lot of the creatures in the casino. It’s still early days for Jamie, but he is still able to figure out how to disable robots by stabbing them in the eye with his knife which is an excellent way to disable them. The Second Doctor is similarly portrayed to the version seen in The Moonbase which is an excellent portrayal, but again he is often in the background. Anneke Wills again steals the show as Polly for the story as she is the one who goes on to save Ben. She knows she can’t change history, but is still going to try. This leads to the high jinx as she finds someone using time travel to repay her debt. The girl is a sympathetic character, but there really isn’t much done in the way of closure to the story for her character arc.
To summarize, House of Cards is Steve Lyons’ great story about a space casino and feels very much like it could have taken place outside of The Macra Terror. While there really isn’t everything to happen to each member of the TARDIS Team Lyons does excellent in the way of creating realistic portrayals of each of them. Anneke Wills and Frazer Hines really make the story feel like a full cast audio with each of them taking up supporting characters which all feel like they’re created with their own lives. The ending is excellent but a bit of the production just takes you out of the story. 85/100.