To the best of my knowledge, there hasn’t been a Fifth Doctor story with just Nyssa and Tegan. It’s not a combination that I think people have been crying out for despite it being one of the few combinations that Big Finish hasn’t used. I was worried that I would miss Turlough in this series of stories because the Fifth Doctor/Turlough/Nyssa/Tegan combo worked so well together. After listening to The Waters of Amsterdam, I have to say that I didn’t miss him. The story takes place almost immediately after Arc of Infinity and we have a mini-bombshell dropped on us by a boyfriend being introduced and this is very much a Tegan story.
The opening episode sees Tegan and Kyle’s relationship told in flashback which can sometimes be a mistake because it can be difficult at first to tell when we’ve gone into the flashback and back out. In the case of this story they worked well and I actually wanted to know more because I found the scenes to be entertaining. When we find out how Tegan lost her air hostess job it is quite funny and typical of the character. I think any other way would have been a betrayal of the character.
I thought that some of the supporting characters and performances were entertaining and very strong. Tim Delap plays Kyle who is Tegan’s boyfriend. Delap previously appeared in the 2013 story Daleks Among Us and I thought that Delap played the role really well because it started off as one thing and then quickly became another. It was good that they resisted the temptation to kill of Kyle in some sort of heroic sacrifice. Richard James plays Rembrandt and I thought that it was a nice performance because bringing historical figures into a Doctor Who story is always something that could go one of two ways (good or bad). I liked the bit where Tegan tries to tell Rembrandt that his work lives on and he doesn’t really care because it doesn’t put food on the table. I thought that this was a rather novel approach to this sort of thing. Elizabeth Morton was good as the villain of the piece. The writing allowed us to think (for a short while) that Teldak was the goodie but once her plan was revealed it was obvious that things were going to be a bit different and yet Morton made the transition look effortless.
The Waters of Amsterdam is a very good start to the year in the main range. I thought that the performances were strong and the story managed to achieve quite a lot in four episodes. I think that this is one Morris’ strongest stories for quite sometime. Jamie Anderson also deserves praise for directing a story with a freshness that allowed the story to work in the way that it did. When the writing and directing come together there is very little that could go wrong. The rest of the series looks very promising.