The Whispering Forest is the second in the â€œreturn of Tegan, Turlough and Nyssaâ€ trilogy of Big Finish audio plays. Following on from events in Cobwebs, the Doctor and his friends arrive on the jungle world of Purity as the TARDIS follows traces of a disease that could cause universally sized problems. As the TARDIS crew get caught up in the trials and tribulations of the local folk, a far more sinister presence is waiting to emergeâ€¦
After the timey-wimeymess of Cobwebs, The Whispering Forest hits the ground with a steady walk. This trilogy of plays has a great likeness to the Black Guardian trilogy of the Davison era in the 80â€™s and even seems to be loosely following its formula. Mawdryn Undead was a feast of time travelling events heavily affecting the story, the apparent death of the Doctor during the story and the return of an old friend who is older and thicker skinned. Ditto all of those elements for Cobwebs.
The Whispering Forest has parallel story elements to Terminus as well. Mainly that both stories have a huge amount at stake but when all is said and done the pace that the plot moves along at is fairly slow. Although a lot happens, it gets slightly sidelined by plot exposition of characters and their pasts. Thatâ€™s not to say that writer Stephen Cole hasnâ€™t formed some interesting people for the Doctor and company to interact with. The sinister Takers, when they eventually appear, are genuinely interesting creatures to listen to and their motivation is solid.
Where this play is slightly weaker is that it could have easily been a tighter two parter that would have been quick and easier to digest. Four parts stretches things a little, leaving parts two and three as padding rather than integral listening.
Performances are once again wonderful, with the Doctor and Tegan doing some great moralising and Janet Fielding really showing off with the fact that even though she hasnâ€™t really touched this character for fifteen years or so, she can easily settle back in and take us back to the eighties in a wave of nostalgia. Turlough and Nyssa have a slightly tougher time of things together, Nyssa, a force and reason for good, plays suitably well opposite Vislor who is constantly on the look out to save his own skin. Mark Strickson has captured the essence of the â€œoriginalâ€ Vislor Turlough with aplomb, coming across as unlikable and nasty compared to how heâ€™s previously played the mellow and caring version of the character in Loups Garoux for example.
Sound design is spot on and the world that the characters traverse sounds so rich and deep that playing it in a well oiled speaker system is a treat. Special mention goes to Richard Fox and Lauren Yason who produced the music and the sound design as its evocative and tender.
Overall, The Whispering Forest is a fine and mature production – one that could play well on Radio Four on a Sunday afternoon. But after the pulse pounding start to this trilogy with Cobwebs, this feels like a slight halt in the proceedings before they lead up to the final act in the trilogy with Cradle of the Snake.
You can purchase The Whispering Forest from www.bigfinish.com on MP3 or CD now!