Big Finish: Doctor Who THE GREY MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: Doctor Who THE GREY MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN Review

Matthew Kresal climbs Ben MacDui.
The end of 2020 also brings us to the end of the last full year of releases from Big Finish's original monthly range of Doctor Who audios. But before it concludes next March, there are still a few stories left to tell. One of those, released this month, is an appropriately atmospheric piece of work, and one that harks back to the early days of the range. That story is The Grey Man of the Mountain.

Written by Lizbeth Myles, The Grey Man of the Mountain is likely to get fan's attention for reuniting the Seventh Doctor and Ace with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. It's a combination that only happened once on-screen in Battlefield (ironically, given Grey Man's placement, in the last season of Classic Who) and a couple of times in the novels. With the sad passing of Nicholas Courtney in February 2011, it felt like a missed opportunity to Big Finish fans. Of course, with Jon Culshaw having taken over the role splendidly in the Third Doctor Adventures, it was perhaps only a matter of time that it would happen. Hearing Myles' tale, I can't help but be happy that it did.

Myles' premise is one that owes much to the early days of Big Finish. Grey Man of the Mountain, in particular, echoes the 2000 release The Spectre of Lanyon Moor, featuring the Brigadier in retirement but still taking on the odd task. Only now, time and TARDIS have brought the Seventh Doctor and Ace along for the ride at the other end of the British isles, with a mystery tied to a landmark. And, appropriately for the time of year, it's set around Christmas time.

To say this is Spectre of Lanyon Moor revisited is to it a disservice, however, because, despite the similarity in premise, it is very much its own creature. Myles crafts a tale with all the hallmarks of a ghost story, albeit one set among a haunted landscape than a house, but which turns out to be far more than a simple haunting. Indeed, what lies behind the phenomenon is an intriguing twist in its own right and one that ultimately does nothing to diminish the atmosphere and tension that Myles builds up throughout much of her script. Combining Myles' writing with the vivid soundscape of Benji Clifford, it feels like a story that brings together the two different ends of the monthly range's history all in one place.

Myles, and the production as a whole, also calls back to those days gone by in other ways. The company's earliest times saw a conscious effort to emulate each Doctor's TV era in scripts and music. The Grey Man of the Mountain returns to that approach, from the characterizations to Ace's young female companion (something she also had in serials such as The Happiness Patrol and Survival) and Benji Clifford's score emulating the music of the final McCoy TV season. As a proud Seventh Doctor fan, I can pay Myles the highest compliment I can think of: The Grey Man of the Mountain feels like a story that would have been perfect for that unmade fourth McCoy season, capturing the spooky feel of stories such as Ghost Light and Curse of Fenric.

It's also superbly realized. McCoy and Aldred slide their characters back into a 1990 position, adding to the feel of this being an unmade TV story of the time. Culshaw, making his debut as the Brigadier outside the Third Doctor Adventures, goes from strength to strength here, capturing the feel of Nicholas Courtney's later performances in the role. Indeed, hearing him and McCoy interacting is something likely to give any Classic Who fan a grin. The supporting cast is equally solid, from Lucy Goldie as Ace's companion Kirsty to Youssef Kerkour channeling Richard E Grant as the scientist Thaddeus Kanne. Combined with Clifford's sound design/music and the remote recording work overseen by Shane O'Byrne of The Soundhouse, director Samuel Clemens brings out the best from cast and production alike.

The Grey Man of the Mountain will go down as the final solo Seventh Doctor outing from Big Finish's founding monthly range. In doing so, it's the last hurrah for this Doctor in the range, a throwback to times gone by combined with two decades of advances in production and performance. It's also an atmospheric tale to hear as the nights get longer and colder, a ghost story of sorts for midwinter.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Doctor Who: The Grey Man of the Mountain is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until January 31st 2021, and on general sale after this date.

Matthew lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.

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