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The Fires of Vulcan

Reviewed by Alden Bates

When I first heard Bonnie was going to do a Doctor Who audio as Mel, I was overjoyed. When I heard Steve Lyons was writing it, I was filled with trepidation — his Virgin novel featuring Mel was flattering to neither her character nor her relationship with the Doctor. When I first heard the advance preview, I wasn't sure about some of the dialogue, but I decided to hold judgement until I'd head the audio.

I'm really glad I did. Mel's character is a heck of a lot better than Steve's attempt in Head Games (assisted, of course, by having Bonnie perform the character!) and every bit as good as in Millennial Rites... and she doesn't scream once! Bonnie's voice has changed quite a bit (I suspect for the better as far as those who dislike Mel are concerned) unlike Sylvester's voice. The two of them fall back into their roles quite neatly, and it is indeed the Season 24 relationship all over again.

People have said the story doesn't fit with Season 24, because of the Doctor's attitude. The Doctor already knows the future — a nice foreshadowing of the Doctor of later seasons — and knows time cannot be cheated. The TARDIS will be lost to them and uncovered in two thousand years time, buried in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. I believe this audio does fit with Season 24. The Doctor's pessimistic side was shown in other stories in the season...

As a historical (I don't generally like historicals!) this works beautifully. The characters (including a gladiator and a prostitute) are well drawn and acted superbly. The sounds of an ancient city have been created rather well, though I can't vouch for how accurately! Aglae, the girl Mel befriends (another Season 24 trend) is particularly well played by Gemma Bissix.

The final episode of The Fires of Vulcan had me on the edge of my seat, trying to work out how everything would be resolved — just like any good Doctor Who adventure should. Kudos to Steve Lyons for writing such a brill' adventure and to Big Finish for bringing back Bonnie.

This item appeared in TSV 61 (December 2000).