However, writer Mark Morris effectively creates a sinister atmosphere into which these characters, known at this stage only by their room numbers, are thrown that's evocative of the best of Sapphire and Steel or the TV McCoy story Ghostlight.
At first it looks as if the Doctor's role in this is going to be very much to the darker side of Seven's nature, he's the “Master” (and a great double take from McCoy when one of the inmates calls him this) of the hotel and seems to be behind both the amnesia and a fairly brutal looking operating room on one floor. However, it quickly becomes apparent there's something far nastier at work here, something from the past of the Time Lords.
The only other character in the first two episodes is the hotel's butler Soames (surprisingly some of his real nature is revealed by him being credited as “Doctor Soames” on the packaging, which is otherwise very careful not to even reveal the names of the amnesiacs). Played by Big Finish regular Timothy West (and though a lot of people complain about the heavy reuse of actors across the companies releases, when your rep company includes actors of this calibre that not exactly something to be ashamed of) it's a fairly thankless role, just there to be mildly sinister for the first half and a misguided scientist for the second. But West is talented enough to do a lot with a little, and is never less than engaging with what he's given.
Up till the end of the second episode the story as a whole feels very like The God Complex, which aired on TV only a few weeks before its release. However, things go in a drastically different direction with the part two cliffhanger, where, after everyone has seemingly been killed by their phobia, it turns out none of what has happened has actually been real at all, the Doctor's been linked into the minds of four soldiers in a military base to try and fight off their infection from an ancient evil called the Mi”en Kalarash. And he may have miscalculated badly...
It's a bold twist that effectively requires the third episode to almost start the story over again, but its worth it for the change of direction. In the real world Soames is the base Doctor and the four previous amnesiacs all have names and ranks. The real threat though is his nurse, Eva Pritchard, who has been under the control of the alien all along and soon has everyone back in fantasy world so she/it can kill them off one by one all over again, with Soames as the first victim.
This second dream sequence is the main weakness of the play, as it just retreads what happened in the hotel but on a plane this time. It's hard not to feel that there's a brilliant three part story in here, and that it's a shame that Big Finish's efforts to experiment with the length of their releases seems to have fallen by the wayside. And for what's promoted as a terrible and ancient evil from ancient history, the Doctor manages to defeat the Mi'en Kalarash fairly easily.
However, this despite these flaws the strength of the atmosphere in the earlier episodes, some effective horror imagery and great guest performances make this a hugely enjoyable listen. There's also some set up for future adventures as “Number 18” (Amy Pemberton), who turns out to be named Sally, goes off with the Doctor as his new companion at the end and promises to be a likeable new addition to the series. There's also the matter of the black Tardis, and, possibly (as it doesn't seem likely to have refereed to what happens here), Nostradamus' prophecy of the Doctor's future to still contend with. It certainly looks as if the Seventh Doctor is going to be living in interesting times in the near future.
Four cockroaches out of Five.
With special thanks to John Dorney for pointing out an embarrassing factual error in the original version of this review.