The Fifth Doctor and Houdini come face to face with an old enemy...


THROUGHOUT his long lives, the Doctor has frequently referred to his mutually-beneficial friendship with Harry Houdini, specifically how he learned escapology from the great illusionist, but they have never met up in any format – until now.

The Fifth Doctor answers a space-time summons from his old friend at a point towards the end of his fascinating life, long after their first encounter alongside companions Ben and Polly several incarnations ago. Accompanied by Adric, Tegan and Nyssa, they are initially caught up in an investigation of a fortune teller whose psychic abilities seem out of this world, only to soon realise there is another force working in the shadows…

Set in an 1920s fairground, with all the associated paraphernalia and participants, there’s a suitably creepy atmosphere to proceedings, especially when Nyssa and Tegan are menaced by an apparently phantasmagorical version of an old foe.

Writer Steve Lyons does an admirable job in establishing a back story for the Doctor’s long friendship with Houdini, filling in details of past adventures without ever resorting to a blatant info-dump, and Tim Beckmann makes for a first-rate Harry, torn between his quest for proof of the supernatural following the death of his wife, and his lifelong desire to debunk fraudsters.

As well as returning to her role as air hostess Tegan Jovanka, Janet Fielding has the remainder of the narrative duties, and doesn’t disappoint in delivering the goods, keeping up the pace and ensuring suitable dramatic emphasis when required.

Once again the Eleventh Doctor pops up for a cameo linking these anniversary releases, but it isn’t intrusive and doesn’t take anything away from the strength of this story.

Perhaps the best instalment in the Destiny of the Doctor series so far, it succeeds in capturing the key elements of the show’s 19th season, including the characters of the TARDIS crew, while also offering a fascinating insight into the Doctor’s long-running friendship with one of history’s most remarkable protagonists.

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