Seasons of Fear was the thirtieth story in Big Finish's monthly range. It was written by Paul Cornell and Caroline Symcox and featured Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and India Fisher as Charlotte Pollard.
On New Year's Eve, 1930, the Eighth Doctor lets Charley keep her appointment at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. But his unease at what he's done to time by saving her life soon turns into fear. Sebastian Grayle: immortal, obsessed, ruthless, has come to the city to meet the Time Lord. To the Doctor, he's a complete stranger, but to Grayle, the Doctor is an old enemy.
An enemy that, many years ago, he finally succeeded in killing. And this is his only chance to gloat.
The Doctor and Charley desperately search human history for the secret of Grayle's power and immortality. Their quest takes in four different time periods, the Hellfire Club, the court of Edward the Confessor, and the Time Vortex itself. And when the monsters arrive, the stakes are raised from the life of one Time Lord to the existence of all humanity.
The Doctor at last succeeds in getting Charley to Indonesia for a long-overdue appointment. She is to meet a young man named Alex Grayle at the Singapore Hilton hotel on New Year's Eve — the reason she stowed away on the R101 airship. The Doctor has his doubts about his actions, but puts them to rest when he sees Charley happily meeting the young man at the bar. However, as midnight approaches, he is interrupted by another Grayle: the immortal Sebastian Grayle, who has come to gloat over his deeds. At some time in his past and the Doctor's future, Grayle killed the Doctor and allowed the Earth to be invaded. Those invaders, having conquered Earth, have become masters of time and space; they created this timeline as an illusion, to draw the Doctor in and give Grayle a chance to gloat over him. He departs as Charley returns; when she reveals that young Alex's last name is also Grayle — and indeed, he is Sebastian's grandson — the Doctor realises how Charley has been used. He takes her to the TARDIS, and discovers that the web of time is indeed unravelling; but over Charley’s objections, he attributes it to Grayle, not to his own interference in saving her life from the R101 crash. Knowing that she kissed Alex, he collects a sample of Alex's DNA from her mouth; the TARDIS traces it through time to the Grayle family's home, in England. They hurry there, and in the attic, they find a Roman amphora, which they suspect is also a clue. They head into the past...but first they stop off for three weeks of research.
The Abbey of Felsecar keeps an extensive library. Here the Doctor finds that the Grayle name first appeared at a Roman fort in Britain in the year 305 AD. The TARDIS takes the Doctor and Charley there, and they search for Sebastian Grayle — or rather, for his Roman identity, one Decurion Sebastius Gralae. They find him praying in his tent and warn him that the Picts are about to revolt, but he brushes off the warning, insisting that he must oversee a temple ritual. The Doctor leaves Charley to search the tent and follows Gralae to the temple. Charley finds an alien communicator in the tent, used to connect Gralae to the future alien invaders. Meanwhile, at the temple, two men — Marcus and Lucilius — welcome the Doctor in. They tell him about the ritual, which re-enacts the mythical slaying of a demon bull by the god Mithras. To that end, there is a sword present which never rusts, which Mithras allegedly used in his battle. However, Gralae is moving some of the statues to new positions, which will alter the ritual; Marcus attributes it to the Londinium-born Gralae's "odd ideas". Allegedly the man considers the demon bull to have been more powerful than Mithras.
As the ceremony begins, Charley calls the Doctor out and reveals the communicator, which is set only for sound (as opposed to video). The Doctor takes this to mean that Gralae is still unsure of his masters; and his wearing of armour indicates he may not yet be immortal. The communicator activates, demanding to know if the sacrifice is ready; the sacrifice of lives will secure the first part of Gralae's power. In the temple, Lucilius lets Gralae take charge. Gralae breaks an amphora of bull's blood on the floor, then runs out and seals the door, locking everyone inside. The Doctor and Charley arrive to see a bright light surround Gralae; the Doctor identifies it as psionic energy, focused through a black hole for channelling into Gralae. The Doctor gets the temple open and warns Marcus and Lucilius to evacuate; they gather their men to flee the fort. However, at the gate they encounter a metal monster that threatens to exterminate them — a Dalek, though they would not know the term. They manage to destroy it and continue running.
The Doctor tries and fails to reason with Gralae. Gralae vows to serve the demons that are now empowering him; as an additional benefit, he will now outlive all his siblings and inherit his family's fortune. He refuses to believe the Doctor regarding what he will become, or what his masters really intend. The Doctor tells him that without the now-escaped sacrifices, his masters will not come through to this world, and Gralae will not become truly immortal, although he will live for centuries. Gralae tries to kill him, but Charley uses the rustless sword to intervene; Gralae can't hurt a woman, and he backs off, but vows to kill the Doctor if he encounters him again. Charley and the Doctor also retreat to the TARDIS; not knowing that the sacrifices have fled, the aliens are trying to transmat the victims off planet. When the transmat beam finds no target in the temple, a shockwave blasts out, destroying the fort.
Barely escaping, the Doctor traces the transmat beam to the Ordinand system; the layout of the system and its nearby black hole will prevent the aliens from contacting Grayle again for 750 years. Charley muses on the paradox of the situation — Grayle hates the Doctor for his interference, but there would have been no interference if Grayle hadn't come to gloat — but the Doctor tells her to let it go, as the logic may drive her mad. He mentions a somewhat-relevant old Gallifreyan myth about a creature called Zagreus, before dropping the thought. For now, they are going 750 years ahead, to the court of Edward the Confessor. Edward held his throne for decades by promising it to many others, causing the would-be heirs to fight each other instead of Edward. A signal from Ordinand leads directly to the court; and a radiation detector reveals a power source nearby. Edward and Edith have just banished the Earl of East Anglia; now they must fill his position. The likely candidate is Bishop Leofric of Exeter, who has come to visit the court, bearing gifts forged from a new metal found nearby. The Doctor is known here, and introduces Charley as "Lady Charlotte". He leaves Charley with the king and queen, and goes to speak with Leofric, who is revealed to be Grayle. The ancient Roman has married — and buried — twelve wives; he spent decades as a penitent monk, watching his fellows wither away. He burns with hatred for the Doctor, but knows his masters — whom he now believes to be angels — will soon destroy the world. The Doctor tries to get more information, but is interrupted when Charley collapses with fever; she has been poisoned.
The Doctor hurries her to the TARDIS, where the medical nanites will heal her; but he leaves the door open, and Grayle follows him in. He prepares to kill the Doctor; already he has no compunction about killing Charley or any woman, his years having changed him. The Doctor knocks him out with a hatstand. Charley suggests dropping him on an isolated world, but the Doctor refuses; he needs Grayle as a link to his still-elusive masters — and truth be told, he pities the old man. For now, they must find out what is so special about the new metal Grayle has been mining. Carrying him out of the TARDIS, they are caught by Edith, who has them arrested; the Doctor suspects that she doesn't really think he harmed Grayle, but rather is bitter over their last meeting, which did not go well. Grayle arrives at their cell and states that the king is ill, and has sent Grayle in his place to take the Doctor's confession. He searches the Doctor and finds the radiation detector, which buzzes when he picks it up. He then tortures the Doctor; the Doctor endures it, until he prepares to torture Charley as well.
Edith arrives, and congratulates "Leofric" for poisoning Edward; when he is dead, she intends to bear Grayle a child who will take the throne. However, she faints; and Grayle explains that the jewellery he gave to Edward and Edith is made from the new metal, which can kill within hours. The Doctor identifies it as plutonium — and one hundred barges of it are en route to the court, to power a machine Grayle has constructed to bring his masters here. However, just as Grayle begins to gloat over his triumph, Edith revives and Edward bursts in — both recognised the threat, and swapped their jewellery for fakes, which is why they didn't set off the radiation detector. Grayle flees. Edward releases the Doctor, who urges him to stop the barges from unloading. On the roof, the Doctor confronts Grayle, who receives a second burst of psionic energy, giving him more centuries of life, and time to finish and power his machine. The Doctor again tries to reason with him, but fails; Grayle tries to throw him off the roof.
Charley watches Grayle fall from the roof into the river — but the Doctor knows he will survive to try again to summon his masters. As well, the presence of the machine may indicate they lack the power to transport themselves... At any rate, the Doctor and Charley destroy the machine, and give the members of the court anti-radiation pills, and tell them how to dispose of the plutonium. Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor collapses from the delayed effects of the torture. He admits that he wasn't thinking of Grayle's immortality; he just wanted him dead for hurting Charley. Most of all he is bothered by the fact that Grayle is willing to destroy time and space over the terms of his father's will — such a petty reason!
Buckinghamshire, 1806: the TARDIS lands inside a cavern system. The Doctor must wear a rapier to fit with local customs, and he takes the rustless sword from the Roman temple. Inside the caves, they find a banquet hall, and he deduces they are in Wickham Caves, one of the strongholds of the Hellfire Club, which they have encountered in the future. In this, its original form, many celebrities attended, including president Benjamin Franklin. Grayle is here somewhere, as the cave is stocked with Minoan artefacts — Grayle is still fascinated with demon bulls. They meet one Sir Richard Martin, a guest here, and give him a quick cover story; he takes them to the host, Sir Sebastian Grayle.
Grayle is hunting with a falcon as Martin's daughter Lucy watches. Martin brings him a horned goblet for the evening's ritual, and introduces the Doctor and Charley, much to Grayle's delight. Grayle asks them to dine with him, and the Doctor accepts. However, at dinner, Grayle twists the Doctor's words into an offence that justifies a duel, and challenges him. Here, he wants not just to kill the Doctor, but to bring him down to his level. The Doctor chooses swords as his weapon. Martin refuses to watch, but Charley and Lucy attend. Lucy, sensing that the Doctor and Charley are more than they seem, confides that Grayle has proposed to her, but she intends to decline — she has another reason for being here. The duel begins. Grayle is overconfident, trusting his invulnerability; but he finds he is wrong, as the Doctor nicks him. The rustless sword draws the alien power out of Grayle, reducing him to mortality; if it touches him long enough, he will feel all of his centuries of life. The Doctor offers him mercy, but he refuses, and tries to stab the Doctor with a dagger. The others intervene in the fight, but Grayle takes Lucy as a hostage and rides away, intending to sacrifice her for his masters.
Martin figures out where Grayle will take Lucy. He tells the Doctor of a strange device in a cave; the entrance is blocked, but one can enter through its chimney. As they go there, the Doctor tells Charley that the sword is pure iron, which is often cited as a defence against magic. Inside the cave, Grayle chains Lucy to a stone. The Doctor and Charley come down the chimney, but too late — the transmat is active. It pulls a travel pod through time and space, and the Doctor recognises it; he knows who Grayle's masters are. Charley frees Lucy; but Grayle opens the pod, releasing the Nimon onto Earth.
The Nimon are weak from their journey; they have sent ahead of them a binding energy oscillator to drain the life from their victims. However, Grayle finds that the oscillator — the horned goblet — is missing, along with many other items. Martin and Lucy are not what they seem; they are con artists, and have robbed him. He hurries after Martin, leaving the Doctor, Lucy, and Charley locked in with the Nimon. The Doctor takes advantage of the Nimon's weakness to examine its travel pod; it requires power from Grayle's machine, but can be piloted independently. He explains to Charley and Lucy that the Nimon spread from world to world like a plague, consuming everything before continuing on — but Earth, being a time and space nexus, will let them conquer all of time and space. A Nimon scout must have given rise to the Mithras legend. They must be stopped before they can regain their strength.
Grayle catches Martin and recovers the goblet, then pushes Martin down the chimney, killing him. The falling body distracts the Nimon, and the Doctor recovers some of the gold coins Martin had stolen. He gets Charley and Lucy into the pod, then pilots it to the cavern beside the TARDIS. He then pilots the TARDIS into the time corridor to block any more Nimon from arriving; but this is not without risk, for he remembers Grayle in Singapore saying that the Doctor died at a distance. That event may happen here.
Grayle arrives with the goblet, allowing the Nimon to consume the other members of the Hellfire Club. They begin to summon more Nimon, but find the corridor blocked. With Grayle, they recover the travel pod and pilot it into the corridor, then materialise in the TARDIS. The Doctor knows they are now a threat, and so he gives Lucy a message for Charley; then he opens the doors. The Nimon are swept into the vortex, but so is the Doctor. Grayle closes the doors; and he is able to use the TARDIS communicator to get instructions from the Nimon. He pilots the TARDIS out of the corridor. Although Grayle has won, he feels cheated by not getting to gloat over the Doctor; therefore he plans to request the false timeline that led the Doctor here in the first place, so he can gloat over him. As Charley mourns the Doctor, Lucy gives her his last message: "Fast return switch, three times fast." Lucy distracts Grayle, allowing Charley to carry out the instructions. Grayle catches on, but it's too late; the TARDIS is in motion. Nevertheless, he draws his flintlock pistols, and takes Charley and Lucy hostage.
The Doctor anticipated this course of events; before the Nimon arrived on the TARDIS, he programmed the TARDIS to create a tunnel to preset coordinates. He manages to arrive ahead of the Nimon, landing in the Roman fort where it all began, just prior to his previous visit there. He warns Lucilius and Marcus that the demon bull is returning, and must be defeated; Lucilius takes the rustless sword from the temple. The Doctor heads for Gralae, realising that at this early point, Gralae is praying not to the Nimon, but to Mithras, seeking a sign. The Doctor summons him out to witness the battle preparation; and as Gralae has never met him yet, he takes the Doctor for a messenger of Mithras. He pleads for forgiveness, and the Doctor gives him the gold coins; this will allow him to buy out his commission and purchase a villa, and thus marry the woman he loves. Thus the source of his turn to evil is averted. The Nimon are still en route. As they arrive, Lucilius leads the attack, and cuts them down. Five dozen Romans die in battle, but all five Nimon are killed.
The TARDIS then arrives, and the older Grayle comes out. Gralae is appalled at his older self, who treats the women badly and dismisses his love for his bride-to-be as foolishness. Grayle intends to kill the Doctor even though he himself is still mortal at the moment; but before he can do so, Gralae stabs him to death, so as to prevent himself from becoming Grayle. The Doctor then tells him to destroy the Nimon communicator, and evacuate before the transmat begins.
History is now correcting itself, although Charley's memories are now confused. Some she will remember as dreams or stories. The Doctor returns Lucy to her own time, then takes Charley to Singapore, 1931, although the TARDIS still seems reluctant to go there. He insists that it is still nothing to do with his saving Charley from death on the R101 — but time may prove him wrong.
IN 1806, Lucy arranges Martin's funeral, but is shocked to find him alive. They are interrupted by the arrival of Charley Pollard — but it is not really Charley. Something hungry has entered the universe and is dangerous to the universe's continued existence. As Lucy is touched with chronon energy as a byproduct of her time travel, and Martin is the product of a paradox, the creature consumes them both.
- The Doctor - Paul McGann
- Charley Pollard - India Fisher
- Sebastian Grayle - Stephen Perring
- Lucillius/Richard Martin - Stephen Fewell
- Edward the Confessor - Lennox Greaves
- Edith - Sue Wallace
- Marcus / Nimon Voice - Robert Curbishley
- Lucy Martin - Justine Mitchell
- Rassilon - Don Warrington
- Waiter / Prisoner - Gareth Jenkins
- When Grayle initially introduces himself to the Doctor, the Doctor wonders if Grayle has mistaken him for another Time Lord, telling Grayle that he's not the one that says "You will obey me" (The Master), he doesn't meddle (The Monk), and he's not a glamorous woman at the moment (The Rani).
- According to Charley, the Doctor smells of honey.
- The Doctor acquires various aliases such as Ambrosius Clemensis and Sir Peter Pollard.
- Charley thinks that the Doctor lets her win when they play Scrabble.
- Both the Doctor and Charley refer to Benjamin Franklin as having served as President of the United States.
- The Doctor and Charley spend three weeks researching Grayle in the Abbey of Felsecar.
- Charley and the Doctor walk into the caves of the Hellfire Club.
- The Doctor enjoys the Singapore Hilton tea gardens.
- The Doctor gives Charley an anti-radiation pill.
- Charley has read a lot of Jane Austen novels.
- The Nimon are Grayle's masters.
- Charley uses the TARDIS' fast return switch.
- This story marks the first appearance of the Nimon in an audio drama.
- This audio drama was recorded on 19 and 20 January 2001 and 27 February 2002.
- Although the publisher's summary states that the story begins at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, this is incorrect, as the Doctor's opening monologue in Part 1 states that he had taken Charley to the Singapore Hilton hotel.
- When discussing Grayle's immortality with Charley, the Doctor notes that he considers his ability to regenerate superior to Grayle just living forever as regeneration allows him to change where Grayle remains stuck in his existing viewpoint; this is in sharp contrast to the Doctor's attitude towards regeneration in his tenth and twelfth incarnations, with these later Doctors initially reluctant to change out of fear of losing the men they were.
- Charley tells the Doctor that she stowed away on the R101 in order to meet a young man named Alex Grayle in the Singapore Hilton on New Year's Eve. (AUDIO: Storm Warning)
- Charley has been thinking about her survival since her encounter with Edith Thompson in Edward Grove on 24 December 1906. (AUDIO: The Chimes of Midnight)
- The Doctor previously encountered the Nimon on Skonnos during his fourth incarnation. (TV: The Horns of the Nimon)
- When the Nimon arrive on Earth, Grayle calls the Hellfire Club members who are to be consumed by the Nimon "weakling scum", a reference to the Co-Pilot calling the tributes from Aneth the same thing. (TV: The Horns of Nimon)
- The Doctor and Charley last encountered the Hellfire Club in Malebolgia in 2003. (AUDIO: Minuet in Hell)
- A Dalek appears in Roman times. This is explained in AUDIO: The Time of the Daleks.
- Felsecar (Monks and Abbeys) are mentioned in PROSE: Love and War and PROSE: Human Nature.
- The being that attacks Lucy and Richard Martin is revealed in AUDIO: Neverland.
- The Fourth Doctor previously visited Roman Britain in 60 AD in the company of Leela, where they encountered Boudica during her revolt against the Roman occupation. (AUDIO: The Wrath of the Iceni)
- Charley mentions to the Doctor that she attended an orgy before but did not stay for long. (AUDIO: Minuet in Hell)
- The Doctor once again recites the Zagreus nursery rhyme. (AUDIO: Project: Twilight)
- The Celestial Toymaker would later refer to the Nimon in a riddle while Charley was playing his games in the Celestial Toyroom. (AUDIO: Solitaire)
- The situation that the Doctor is in during his narration is revealed in AUDIO: Neverland.
- Alex Grayle would later tell Charley's parents Lady Louisa and Lord Richard Pollard that he danced with her in Singapore on 31 December 1930. (AUDIO: The Fall of the House of Pollard)
- The Doctor yells "Geronimo" which becomes a habit of his in his Eleventh incarnation. (TV: The End of Time et al)
- The Doctor mentions that he rarely touches meat. He decided to become a vegetarian in his Sixth incarnation. (TV: The Two Doctors)
- The Doctor says that he "had his moments with swords". (TV: The Sea Devils, TV: The Masque of Mandragora TV: The Androids of Tara, TV: The King's Demons)
- The Doctor left Edith at the altar much like he would later do in his tenth incarnation. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
- The Eighth Doctor had previously had a glimpse of this adventure when he looked into a Tomorrow Window. (PROSE: The Tomorrow Windows)
- After Charley escaped from the Ever-and-Ever Prolixity, a Viyran agent was stationed in Karachi to search for her. (AUDIO: The Fall of the House of Pollard)
- Official Seasons of Fear page at bigfinish.com; note that it is out of print and is available as download only.
- DisContinuity for Seasons of Fear at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide