We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re listening to Main Range #20, Loups-Garoux, featuring the Fifth Doctor and Turlough. Let’s get started!
Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!
We open with a flashback to 1589. In Cologne, Germany, Pieter Stubbe is sentenced to death for crimes committed as a werewolf. Five hundred years later, in the year 2080, the Doctor and Turlough make their way to Rio de Janeiro for carnival. Others are nearby, as well; a young woman named Rosa Cayman is on a quest to prove herself in the wake of her grandfather’s death. A wealthy matron named Ileana de Santos is in Rio for the carnival as well, mourning the death of her husband; her son Victor is also with her, along with several servants, but Victor is ill and must have constant medical care from his physician, Dr. Hayashi. Ileana’s servant, Inez, finds a package leaking blood—and a message from an old lover that Ileana would as soon forget. She orders her people to leave Rio at once.
Turlough, disgruntled at the transformation of the area (which is now an overpopulated desert instead of the Amazon basin it once was), throws the remnants of a burger to a dog. Drawn by the food, other dogs join the pack, and begin chasing them. Just as the Doctor and Turlough are cornered, something in the distance howls, and the dogs scatter in fear. The Doctor realizes something terrible just happened, but keeps it to himself.
Ileana hears the howl, as well, and knows that time is short. She allows Hayashi to drug Victor, who is uncooperative otherwise, and they board the train to return to the ranch that is their home. On the train, she receives calls from the Grey One, the person she is fleeing. In the crowds of the city, the Doctor and Turlough feel a wave of fear ripple past, strong enough to affect even them; Turlough traces it to a strange wolf-faced man. The wolf-man’s hover-limo is heading to the train station, where the TARDIS is parked; the Doctor rushes Turlough back for it. Inside, the Doctor sets very precise coordinates, placing them just over the tracks ahead of the train; when it arrives, he travels very briefly in time, landing the TARDIS aboard the train’s last car.
Hayashi finds that Victor is missing. He has bitten through his restraints and killed—and probably eaten—Hayashi’s assistant, Juro. He nearly kills Hayashi as well. Inez smells the Doctor (or actually his celery), and recognizes the scent from a very brief encounter at the station as they were leaving, and believes it is the Grey One. On the way forward in the train, the Doctor and Turlough find Juro’s decapitated body. Two of Ileana’s servants, Jorge and Lichtfuss, arrive; they force Turlough into a kind of trance, and he nearly jumps off the train. The spell is only broken when something passes the window, and the servants go after it, hunting for Victor. Lichtfuss views the Doctor as a rival in his pursuit of Ileana’s affections, and suspects he may also be the Grey One.
Inez takes the Doctor and Turlough to Ileana and Hayashi. He offers to help, but Ileana is suspicious, and sends everyone out for a moment. While they are gone, she gets another call from the Grey One, who is Pieter Stubbe—not so dead after all. Elsewhere in the desert, Rosa has an encounter with Stubbe, but survives it due to her silver knife. The Doctor and Turlough spot what may be the Grey One outside; the Doctor goes to warn Ileana. Turlough is accosted by Lichtfuss and Jorge, who make him see a vision in a mirror, creating a suspicion that he may be a potential werewolf himself. Elsewhere, Hayashi is in secret communication with Pieter, who has bribed him. In Ileana’s cabin, Ileana admits that she and all her entourage are werewolves, and requests the Doctor’s help, forcing Hayashi to work with him. Victor bursts into the window, violently out of control. Hayashi tranquilizes him. At the same time, Turlough runs in, but upon seeing Victor, who is now fully in wolf form, he panics and leaps from the train. Ileana, meanwhile, thinks Hayashi has killed Victor, and loses control of her own lupine side, and begins to transform.
The Doctor talks her down, and she reverts to human form. He wants to stop the train to find Turlough, but she can’t; they have almost arrived. However, she promises to send someone for him as soon as they stop. Lichtfuss eavesdrops; his jealousy is getting the better of him. Turlough, meanwhile, is still alive; running through the desert, he encounters Rosa. She lets him join her, and they compare notes, especially about her encounter with the Grey One. Back at the train—which is just arriving—the Doctor learns that Hayashi is mapping Victor’s genome, in an attempt to eradicate the werewolf condition from everyone. The Doctor considers that genocide, and disapproves, but until he can recover Turlough, he has no choice but to work with Hayashi.
No one is waiting at the ranch—a bad sign. Other werewolves are in the area though. Ileana sends Lichtfuss to search for Turlough, and takes everyone else back to the ranch with her. Along the way, the Doctor stops the medicine Hayashi has been giving Victor. He wonders why they aren’t flying, which would be quicker; Ileana explains that the werewolves are bound to the earth, and get sick if they are too high above the ground. Victor begins to recover; the medicine wasn’t curing him, it was making him ill. Ahead of them, the ranch is seen to be afire. Pieter is responsible, but how did he know where they were going? She suspects Hayashi has been telling him.
Rosa and Turlough are attacked by werewolves, led—unknown to Turlough—by Lichtfuss. They are interrupted by a howl from the Grey One, which Turlough recognizes from the Carnival. He takes Rosa’s knife and flees, trying to lure the Grey One away. At the ranch, the wolves gather at Ileana’s summons, and Lichtfuss brings Rosa as a gift. Lichtfuss challenges the Doctor to fight for Ileana. They are interrupted when Pieter—the Grey One—arrives to claim Ileana as his; she was his lover once before, and she will be again. He has swallowed Turlough, but couldn’t kill him because of the silver knife; he regurgitates Turlough as an offering to Ileana. Lichtfuss turns his challenge to Pieter, who kills him instantly. The Doctor gets Turlough to a hover-van, and Turlough gives him the knife; the Doctor goes to confront Pieter, whom he knows will kill as many innocents as possible. He exposes the truth about Hayashi’s planned genocide. He challenges Pieter—and Ileana declares him her champion, and (if he survives) husband.
The situation becomes a standoff; Pieter will no more be able to consume the Doctor than he could Turlough. Pieter turns his attention, and that of the wolves, to Hayashi; they will give him a lead and then hunt him down. Even the Doctor is affected by Pieter’s mental power, but breaks free; he escapes in a van with Turlough and Rosa. The wolves have taken the train to return to Rio; Pieter has promised to lay waste to the city and the humans as a gift to Ileana. The Doctor takes the van up to 120 feet, where the wolves can’t reach; he sees the moving train, but realizes the last car—with the TARDIS—has been cut loose by Ileana. She realized the box was important, and that it can help the Doctor stop Pieter.
They recover the TARDIS, but arrive in Rio too late, after the wolves have already arrived and corralled the humans. Turlough locates the corralled populace, but is captured by Victor, who takes him to Ileana. The Doctor realizes that Pieter and his wolves are at the Christ statue above the city. He returns to the TARDIS and finds an old dog whistle that once was used for K9 Mk. II. The silent whistle irritates the lesser wolves, and summons them to the Doctor; he persuades them to abandon and turn on Pieter.
On the mountain by the statue, Victor and Turlough arrive; Ileana and Pieter are already there. Pieter is about to kill Turlough, when the TARDIS arrives; its appearance rattles Pieter. The Doctor gets Turlough inside. Pieter tries to get the Doctor to reject Ileana on the basis of her monstrous nature, but he accepts her anyway. Pieter tries to kill them both, but he is wounded by Rosa. Ileana flees, and the Doctor and Rosa return to the TARDIS. Pieter follows them in, and is stunned at the size of the interior. The Doctor takes them into space, breaking Pieter’s link to the Earth, and he begins to weaken and die. As he is older than humanity, he has no human form, and will not revert. Surprisingly, Rosa comforts him as he dies.
The Doctor returns to Rio, and allows the wolves to take Pieter’s body. Rosa departs as well. Ileana comes to say goodbye to the Doctor, but uses her powers to prevent Turlough from seeing or hearing her. She wants to go with him, but he cannot take her; she too would die, and she has Victor to live for—and the Doctor will not give up his travels for her. She agrees, and departs, leaving Turlough and the Doctor to go on their way.
I had mixed feelings about this story. On one hand, I find that I usually don’t care for supernatural stories in Doctor Who, as I’ve said before; ghosts, witches, vampires, werewolves—not really my area of interest. (So far, mummies get a pass; both Pyramids of Mars and Mummy on the Orient Express are excellent.) On the other hand, Marc Platt is a great writer, and I enjoy his work. This one started out chaotic, and I had trouble getting into it; but it picked up in part three, and ended strong. It’s a plot with a lot of detail; I’ve left out a number of minor items in my summary, as it already ran to more than sixteen hundred words.
I like Turlough as a companion, and the rare audios in which he alone travels with the Doctor seem to be enjoyable. (According to the wiki, there are only three such stories in the main range, though that may be out of date by now.) This story exposes a bit of his dark side, in his temptation to run with the werewolves; I know it’s in keeping with his character arc, but it’s a bit out of place here, especially as this story has to occur after Enlightenment, the story in which most of his issues were resolved. I suppose you can argue that he carried some guilt, fear, and frustration all the way to Planet of Fire, but that hardly seems like a true dark side. As to timing, this story can only occur between Resurrection of the Daleks and Planet of Fire, as Tegan left in the former and Peri joined in the latter, making this the only time in which Turlough and the Doctor traveled alone. The series seems to imply that their time in that situation was short, so I’m fine with limiting the number of stories in that gap. (Technically, Kamelion was also present, but that doesn’t really change anything here; he didn’t appear for most of Season 21, despite technically being present.)
Ileana is a tragic character, to some degree. She comes from a dark past, and it is clear that she’s put years into escaping that past and making a good life for herself. Yet, at the end, she can’t travel with the Doctor. We’re familiar with the idea that someone’s character may make them a bad candidate for traveling with the Doctor; but in her case, she has the makings of a good companion—but it’s for a reason beyond her control that she can’t. I would not be averse to encountering her again.
Rosa’s story, on the other hand, felt mostly unnecessary—give Turlough a silver knife of his own, and one could remove her completely without changing the story. She’s interesting enough, I suppose, but she felt tacked on to the story. Likewise, Lichtfuss’s subplot about his jealousy over Ileana felt unnecessary and forced. It’s there to give depth to the story and its background, and to create a risk for the Doctor, but it fails on both counts. As to depth, it appears out of nowhere with no justification for why this servant should think he can successfully marry or mate with his leader; as to risk, it might accomplish that purpose, if Pieter didn’t kill him the first time it comes to light.
“Loups-Garoux” is French for “werewolves”, though I understand that it’s either a misspelling or an archaic form. French is an odd choice, given that the story is set in a Portuguese-speaking country, but what do I know? At any rate, this is hardly the first or the last werewolf story in Doctor Who. He encounters werewolves again in the Fourth Doctor (and Eighth Doctor cameo) novel Wolfsbane, and the Eighth Doctor novel Kursaal. He also encountered them in his seventh incarnation in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy and in his tenth in Tooth and Claw (which is my favorite of the werewolf stories I’ve encountered so far).
References are thin here, other than simple (and very circuitous) references to the Doctor’s age. We have the reference to K9 Mk. II via the dog whistle, but that’s about it. However, there is something interesting here: This story was referenced by Gideon Crane in the previous audio, Minuet in Hell, despite not having been released yet. I like that; I think it’s great when a series about time travel gives us direct references to stories that are yet to come. However, it’s a risky practice, as future stories sometimes get derailed before release, or worse, altered in such a way that the reference no longer fits. There’s no such problem here, though, and it works out well.
Overall, I’d rate this one a solid fifty percent, but I will admit that that’s partly just personal preference, as I mentioned before. I fully expect that others, lacking my particular bias against this type of story, will enjoy it more, and I recommend listening for yourself. If nothing else, it’s a good Fifth Doctor story, and Turlough gets too little screen time as it is, so this story is welcome in those respects.
Next time: On Thursday, we’ll wrap up the Destiny of the Doctor series, and then on Monday, it’s Main Range #21, Dust Breeding! See you there.
All audio dramas featured in this series may be purchased from Big Finish Productions; this story’s purchase page is linked below. This and many other stories may also be found on Spotify and Google Play.