Adapted from one of the “Missing Adventures” novels released in the 1990s, DOCTOR WHO: COLD FUSION is a time-travelling sci-fi adventure where the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison), accompanied by space kids Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton), and Australian air hostess Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding), encounter the future TARDIS crew: the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and his companions, former-law-enforcement-officers-from-the-future Roslyn ‘Roz’ Forrester (Yasmin Bannerman) and Chris Cwej (Travis Oliver).
Cold Fusion is a tale of mysteries: What is the secret of the ghosts? Why is Chris doing a bad Aussie impersonation? And just who is that sleeping in the cryo-tube? This cryptic tale begins when the Fifth Doctor arrives on an icy planet to investigate mysterious time stuff, unaware that his Seventh incarnation is already at work there…
Both Doctors find themselves caught up in an investigation into a strange object found buried in the ice, which seems to be the source of a number of ghostly manifestations, while at the same time avoiding the gun-toting Adjudicators who are running about the place and upsetting the natives. The past and future versions of the Doctor (and related companions) eventually all meet, and – after some initial confusion – work to fix the situation. But can the Fifth Doctor really trust his future self?
Although it’s crammed to bursting with action and adventure, Cold Fusion also suffers a tad from simply having too many characters on the stage. Having two Doctors and five companions is already a lot to deal with, and that’s before you add the mysterious woman in cryogenic suspension, the mysterious scientists investigating the mysterious ship from the future, the mysterious race of time-sensitive aliens, and the Adjudicators running around shooting at things. Indeed, the huge number of companions means that all of them feel a little side-lined at one point or another. Janet Fielding probably gets the best lines as Tegan, especially in her rapidly changing responses to Chris. Adric and Nyssa mostly just follow Roz and Chris about, and these latter two end up appearing somewhat underdeveloped compared to the others, especially as neither have the advantage of having appeared in any episodes on TV! That said, even without any huge character-building moments, Oliver and Bannerman are game performers with a lot of natural charm.
Peter Davison also comes over rather well as the Fifth Doctor, starting and ending with some pleasingly emotional scenes, as he discusses his recent losses and regeneration with Nyssa, and later apologises to an alien for his future self’s brutality. Sylvester McCoy is also good; he’s truly in his element as the Seventh Doctor skulking around in the shadows, although when he meets his former companion Adric (who will eventually die while defeating the Cybermen in a “later” Fifth Doctor TV story), there is little of the emotional clout found in the original novel.
Indeed, in general this story struggles with walking the fine line between engaging with fans of the novel – and the mad and fascinating novel series mythology it indulged in – while remaining accessible to newcomers who just want a simple multi-Doctor romp and aren’t already aware of the Time Lord birthing processes, the Doctor’s mysterious ancestry, or his wife Patience (played here by Christine Kavanagh). Writer Lance Parkin, who adapted his own novel, often seems to tie himself in knots in trying to keep enough of the original context in place to please die-hard fans, but sadly falls short of completely pulling it off.
In fairness to Parkin, he does manage to transfer the story well from page to audio, fitting everything into a traditional six episode structure familiar to long-time fans of the TV series. Also, director Jamie Anderson does a sterling job of slowly drawing together the dangling plot threads – and no review of Cold Fusion would be complete without mentioning Fool Circle Productions and their gorgeous sound design and music which perfectly evokes Doctor Who in the early 1980s.