The “Celebrity Historical” has been a mainstay of TV Doctor Who since it returned, mostly working within a very rigid format, the Dickens, Shakespeare and Agatha Christie episodes were pretty much all the same script with a cut and paste job done on them to fill in the correct clever clever references to the relevant authors work. The promotion and back cove for this story creates the impression it will be in the same vein with Nostradamus, but instead it goes off in a completely different direction that actually winds up evoking a story from the Matt Smith's second year on TV. With just a touch of the Peter Davison story Enlightenment.
After last months Colin Baker celebratory diversion, The Doomsday Quatrain
What's really nice about this story is it doesn't hold out on its big twist until the cliffhanger moment. Though the Doctor himself doesn't click onto what's really going on until the end of part two the listener is almost casually introduced to the idea this isn't really Earth but a planet in the future full of technobabble clones that's just designed to be used to test the weapons the one set of aliens are selling to the other.
Having enough faith in the strength of the story to not need to make a big twist moment is extremely confident writing on the part of the two authors (Emma Beeby and Gordon Rennie). The idea of the doppelgangers finding out their not who they thought they were and then being faced with the conflict over how “real” they are is also surprisingly evocative of The Rebel Flesh two parter on TV, considering the BBC have previously used their power of veto to prevent Big Finish covering similar ground to the show at around the same time it's actually a bit odd this made it through the net.
However, this subversion of where the story looks to be going and a great performance from David Schofield as Nostradamus are the only really outstanding things on offer here. The rest of the story is competent and entertaining, but is also extremely basic meat and potatoes Who. The nasty aliens do at least have a bit of flair to them with their habit of eating each other, but otherwise every plot beat is very obvious and the Doctor's actions and solutions are about as standard as Big Finish ever get. Even the ending where Nostradamus gives the Doctor an (unrevealed to the listener) ominous prophecy about his own future is the sort of thing the TV has recently made a fairly dull standard.
The comparison with The Rebel Flesh is also unfortunate as in that story the duplicates and the originals were in conflict with each other helping to solidify the theme of identity and what makes a person “real”. Other than the fact he wouldn't have had real psychic powers there's no real clue as how Nostradamus 2 differs from the original and how much he has struck out be become his own person.
Though there's nothing technically wrong here, the story as a whole is so bog standard it's not one that's worth tracking down especially. Even though it would be unfair to suggest it's less than average, not much beyond the twist will stick in your mind after its done.
Two and a half out of five.