Doctor Who review: Purgatory 12 explores a brother’s grief

While looking for a way out of E-Space, the Fourth Doctor, Romana, K9 and Adric land on a very strange penal colony in Purgatory 12, the opening story to the ninth series of Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor Adventures.

Series 9 of The Fourth Doctor Adventures begins with Purgatory 12 by Marc Platt. Set during Season 18 – specifically, in the gap between the classic serials State of Decay and Warriors’ Gate – the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K9 are trapped in another universe. While they found their way into E-Space pretty easily (not to mention accidentally), they are now desperately looking for a way out.

They’re currently joined by Adric on their travels. A native of this universe, Adric is still struggling to fit in with the TARDIS crew. He’s also struggling to deal with the death of his brother Varsh, who was killed in Adric’s introduction story Full Circle.

A companion’s grief

This is something that immediately stands out about Purgatory 12, and shows why this gap is worth exploring. On-screen, Adric’s grief over the death of his brother was never truly addressed. It’s not surprising – back then, the series just didn’t focus a great deal on the emotional side of the companions, even if they had been through something clearly major in their lives. So it’s nice to see Adric’s grief explored in a very believable way, particularly when he’s making some rather reckless and dangerous choices when the TARDIS arrives on Purgatory 12.

Of course, while Adric is focused on a great deal in this story, the rest of the TARDIS team are focused on just as much. We see the Fourth Doctor and Romana struggling with the responsibility of having someone so young travel with them. Especially the former, who’s never been good at responsibility in the first place!

Even K9 is given something to do. We get to see him make a friend in this story, and form a quick bond that feels believable for the robot dog. He’s also given a particularly emotional role in the final episode.

Doctor Who

The Fourth Doctor and Adric (played by Tom Baker and Matthew Waterhouse) are explored in fresh ways in Purgatory 12.
Image Courtesy: Big Finish Productions

A very strange prison

The character exploration of Purgatory 12 is fantastic, but what of the story? The titular prison is a rather interesting place. Taking place not on a planet but an asteroid, it’s clear that there is something rather strange happening on Purgatory 12. Who is really in charge of this prison?

Unsurprisingly, Purgatory 12 features many traits usually found in Marc Platt’s stories: a sense of strangeness and peculiarity, a rich world and a variety of interesting characters.

One character that stands out is Crimsson. Played by George Watkins (who also plays new companion Marc in the Fifth Doctor audios), Crimsson is your classic knight on a quest. It would’ve been easy for Watkins to play him in an over the top and laughable way. But instead, Watkins plays the character completely straight and makes him believable, and we’re given a rather likable character as a result.

Purgatory 12 is exactly why I’m glad that The Fourth Doctor Adventures has moved from telling two-part stories to four-part ones. I’ve enjoyed many of the former in previous series, but a story like Purgatory 12 needs plenty of room to be told. It’s a story that’s full of strange ideas, but at the same time, it also takes the time to explore its characters, too. A solid start to the brand new series of The Fourth Doctor Adventures.

Next: The Doctor’s granddaughter is recruited in the Time War in April!

Are you keen to listen to this new series of adventures for the Fourth Doctor and his companions? Do you think the gap in the E-Space trilogy is worth exploring? Let us know in the comments below.

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