Legend has it that St Matilda’s college in Oxford is haunted. Three ghostly nuns wander the halls of the ancient institution, formerly a convent, and anyone who sees them will not be long for this world.
When a student disappears, the new Dean, one Dame Emily Shaw, wants to call the police in. But it’s not just her staff who would rather she didn’t, as her call is answered by the Doctor and Leela. Are the ghosts real or is there a millennia-old secret that’s even more terrifying hidden behind St Matlida’s walls and cloisters?
Nuns. They do good work. We’ve all seen ‘The Sound of Music’ and watched them cheerfully dance and sing. But despite this there is something creepy about them, and they also fit nicely with the supernatural. Maybe they don’t seem a natural villain as they’re not ones for rushing about and eating or zapping people, but three nun’s lurking in the shadows is a surprisingly chilling concept, and one that is well realised here. It’s hard to say too much about this trio of terror without giving away some major spoilers. As you’d expect nothing is as it seems (when is it ever?) and this is a good sci fi tale with plenty of twists and turns.
The story benefits from a strong central cast. The Doctor is mischievous in the all woman convent setting and Leela gets a chance to bond with one of the other characters. The return of Liz Shaw’s mother, Dame Emily, is also a very welcome addition, not least because she’s already aware of the Doctor and can hit the story running. But she’s a very empowered and caring woman and she adds a dynamic to the mix that reminds me a lot of Evelyn Smythe, one of my all time favorite companions. The other students and staff also work well although there are a lot of students at times (including one with an Irish accent that kept making me think of the words TARDY BOX).
As mentioned it’s a good story by Jonathan Morris, a writer who’s done a lot of good work for Big Finish over the years and continues that tradition here. Nick Brigg’s direction is well suited to this tale, keeping the complex plot moving but ensuring it’s clear what is going on. And the sound work is excellent as well. An old building is probably a sound designers idea of heaven with all the noises it can produce.
As I’ve said in the last few reviews I’m a Fourth Doctor fan anyway, but these are strong stories that are a lot of fun and really fit in with the feel of the show back then. A well deserved 8/10!