Audio company Big Finish, much to its credit, has since collected what remains of the scripts and reassembled Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant to revive the time travellers and give fans an aural sense of what should have unfolded on their screens in 1986 had Michael Grade not turned into The Master. But unlike Spandau Ballet, was this '80s revival a worthwhile one (writes the hardcore Duranie)?
'The Nightmare Fair' is the first adventure to be released, with the rest slated to follow over the coming months. Ever since it was first announced almost a quarter of a century ago, the appetites of Whovians were whetted by the prospect of The Doctor locking horns with the esteemed Michael Gough's 'Celestial Toymaker' two decades after William Hartnell's first incarnation defeated him. The premise, featuring the devious antagonist taking over a video arcade in Blackpool in order to challenge his Gallifreyan nemesis to another duel, appeared to be a great one. Little wonder that so many have felt that the BBC's shameful actions deprived us of a classic-in-the-making. However, this new audio drama exposes the reality of the matter - the script was a bit of a duffer.
Both the score and sound effects work well to set the scene and conjure up imagery in the listener's imagination, as a procession of laughter and squeals from Blackpool's theme park begins to turn into something sinister. You can really sense The Doctor being observed by a mysterious, unseen force. The music neatly evokes the synthesised era of producer John Nathan-Turner, which is also reinforced with the usual spate of self-referential dashes early on as Magnus Greel, Jamie McCrimmon and Kevin Stoney all surface in various ways.
As The Celestial Toymaker, David 'Taren Capel' Bailie does an admirable job donning the Mandarin garb in the absence of the retired Michael Gough. His vocal performance evokes a world-weary being desperate for thrills and confrontation, taking pleasure in luring The Doctor into his Blackpool lair with the help of the attractions. Unhinged and creepy, Bailie does well to avoid over-selling the part and is admirably restrained until the denouement. Sadly, neither he nor Baker is served well by the eagerly-anticipated reunion between their characters, with the verbal jousting between the pair lacking any spark or hook despite the actors' sterling efforts to breathe life into the flat material. They're like the reverse of Jedward from The X Factor - dreadful singers who perform great material.
Despite the heavy criticisms of Graham Williams's script, it's still well worth checking out 'The Nightmare Fair' for curiosity value and as a means of embarking on the voyage of this 'lost' 23rd season. 1980s Doctor Who had a tendency for juxtaposing the sublime with the ridiculous - look at how 'The Twin Dilemma' followed 'The Caves Of Androzani' - so there's every chance next story 'Mission To Magnus' will be a corker.
Doctor Who: 'The Nightmare Fair' is available to buy now at www.bigfinish.com
> Click here for our look at the making of the 'lost season' of Doctor Who