Part of the Companion Chronicles, stories told by the Doctor’s assistants, this has the benefit of starring one of the Doctor’s finest – Leela, Sevateem warrior, intelligent primitive, and a total hottie to boot.
As a consequence, it also means that the adventure benefits from the vocal stylings of the fantastic Louise Jameson who, of course, played Leela in the TV series. Her quality and clarity of speech, together with that of Timothy Watson (as the Z’Nai) make this an absorbing and highly professional experience from beginning to end.
The plot is a simple one. Leela is held captive by the Z’Nai, and in a series of flashbacks, we are told how she ended up there, why the Doctor imprisoned one of the Z’Nai creatures in Edwardian England, and what the Z’Nai want with Leela in the first place.
With Jameson taking on many of the parts herself, including that of the Doctor, it’s surprising to note that The Catalyst has a pace about it that is more akin to a radio play than an audio book. With little interaction between different actors, it would have been very easy for the story to have fallen flat and it’s to Jameson’s great credit that the story holds together as well as it does. She is highly impressive in taking on as many different roles as she has, particularly that of young Jessica, a brattish, annoying little girl who unwittingly unleashes death upon herself and her family.
A key part of the plot is that away from the Doctor, Leela is ageing a year a day and Jameson portrays that expertly. The intelligence and feistiness of the character are still present, as is a vulnerability brought about by the apparent hopelessness of her captivity. To give away more of the plot would be unfair here but there are enough twists and turns to keep the most ardent fan captivated, and an ending that keeps you guessing.
At the end of the CD is a gem of an interview with Louise Jameson speaking about her thoughts on the character and on this adventure. She is admirably candid about the writers of the TV series, and the troubles she had bringing Tom Baker to life on this audio production and it’s a real treat to hear her be so honest.
The Catalyst is a superb purchase. Well paced, expertly acted and a plot that will have you gripped from the start, it’s a fine piece of work.