Trail of the White Worm was the fifth story in the first series of the Fourth Doctor Adventures, produced by Big Finish Productions. It was written by Alan Barnes and featured Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor and Louise Jameson as Leela.
It offered an explanation as to why the Decayed Master looked different between the version played by Peter Pratt and the one played by Geoffrey Beevers, revealing that the Master managed to partially reverse his deformity after absorbing some energy from the Eye of Harmony, transitioning him from a more skeletal appearance to a slightly rejuvenated appearance in comparison.
The story continued in The Oseidon Adventure.
The legend dates back to Roman times, at least: a great White Worm, as wide as a man, slithers out of the rocks of the Dark Peak Gap to take animals, sometimes even children, for its food.
When the Doctor and Leela arrive in the wilds of Derbyshire, only to get caught up in the hunt for a missing girl, they soon discover that the legend of the Worm is very much alive — even now, in 1979.
The Doctor and Leela land in England, Dark Peak, 1979. As they step out of the TARDIS, Leela accidentally steps on a pool of sticky liquid, which she recognizes as excretion from a giant animal, probably a serpent. As they consider the matter, a pack of hunters with dogs and guns comes across them. Fearing they’d be looking for them, and unable to re-enter the TARDIS, the Doctor and Leela try to slither away, following the trail left by the creature. Eventually, they come to a place where the trail stops, in front of an electrified picket fence. Gathering the serpent must have passed over or under it, Leela tells the Doctor to handle her his scarf, so she can climb on the nearby trees and continue the pursuit of the snake. First, however, she comes back to inform the leader of the hunters, Mr Carswell and his servant John, that their prey has double-backed on its tracks to confound it.
Leela then climbs over the picket fence and into a land belonging to Colonel Hugh Spindleton. He takes her for a trespasser and attacks her with a chieftain tank he controls from afar, forcing her to flee for her life. Meanwhile, the Doctor talks with Carson and John. They tell him they are hunting for a “you-know-what”, as they call it, because they believed it kidnapped Julie, Carswell’s niece. The sound of a whistle breaks their conversation: it’s a signal from another pack of hunters. They found a body.
Leela runs enough time for Spindleton’s tank to remain without fuel, then she climbs over it and threatens to shoot at Spindleton with his own gun if he does not assist her and the Doctor. Reluctantly, Spindleton agrees and invites her over to his house. The Doctor, Carswell and Johnny examine the body the hunters found: it’s not Julie, it appears to be just a field walker, missing one shoe. The Doctor gathers that whatever killed him, it’s not from Earth. At that moment, they are reached by Miss Demesne Furze, a neighbour of Carswell, as she is carrying Julie in the boot of her car.
Leela enters Spindleton’s house, adorned with the heads of the animals he killed. He asks him for a telephone, so she can warn the police and get their help first in helping the Doctor, and then in looking for the serpent. Excited by the news she can track him down, Spindleton insists she talks first to his “man-servant”, who lives in the caves under his house. Miss Furze explains she kidnapped Julie as she found her on the side of the road, asking for a lift to London, and Julie confirms she did escape to go to London and join the “punk rockers”. Carson calls off the search and leaves off to take Julie home, not without telling the Doctor the way to Spindleton’s house, so he can retrieve Leela. Since it is in her direction, Miss Furze offers the Doctor a lift.
On the way to Spindleton’s house, Miss Furze tells the Doctor about the local legends about a white worm living in this part of the country, which an old tale said was cut in twain by a knight. The Doctor notices that in Old English the word “wyrm” could mean “dragon”. Miss Furze drops the Doctor at Spindleton’s house, but invites both him and his friend to her house if they should stay long in the country. In the cave, Spindleton presents Leela to his “mwalimu”, his accomplice: the Master. The Doctor’s attempt to open the lock on Spindleton’s gate makes the alarm resound. As Spindleton goes to check, the Master tricks Leela into walking into a spot of the cave, near to a wide crack in the floor, covered in blood. The Master then beckons the worm from a wide crack in the cave’s floor, so it can eat Leela.
to be added
- The Doctor - Tom Baker
- Leela - Louise Jameson
- The Master - Geoffrey Beevers
- Colonel Spindleton - Michael Cochrane
- Demesne Furze - Rachael Stirling
- Carswell / Mercenary - John Banks
- Julie - Becci Gemmell
- John - Mark Field
- The Doctor was once imprisoned in the Tower of London on the Duke of Exeter's daughter.
- After finding the TARDIS, Carswell claims that he has not seen a police box since going to Derbyshire in 1952.
- According to the Doctor, Time Lords are not descended from primates.
- Leela uses the Doctor's scarf to swing over an electric fence.
- After discovering the corpse of a fellwalker (which only has one shoe, suggesting that the body was moved), the Doctor determines that it was not killed by any Earth creature.
- Although Carswell believed that it was his niece Julie Ledger had been killed by the Great White Worm, she was planning to hitchhike to London as she wanted to hang out with punk rockers such as Sid Vicious and Siouxsie and the Banshee in Carnaby Street. Demesne Furze kidnapped her, put her in the boot of her car and returned her to Dark Peak.
- Colonel Spindleton has the mounted heads of a tiger named Terry and a gorilla named Gerald, both of which he killed personally.
- According to legend, a knight named Sir Edgar killed the Great White Worm by cutting it "in twain" during the Middle Ages. In Old English, "wyrm" does not mean "worm" but "dragon".
- The caves under Lambton Manor were used as a place of worship by Romans during the occupation of Britain.
- Demesne Furze is able to smell the Time Vortex off the Doctor. She transforms herself into the Great White Worm.
- The Doctor gives Leela a message to "UNIT, Doctor, TARDIS, Master, Zygons, Krynoids, Axons too" in the hope of attracting the attention of his good friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.
- This is the first Big Finish audio drama to feature the Master since the audio story Master in October 2003.
- This is the first Fourth Doctor story in performed Doctor Who to feature the Master since the television story Logopolis in 1981.
- The Decayed Master stays true to form and initially adopts an alias. In this case, it is "Mwalimu," which is Swahili for "teacher" or "master."
- This story leads directly into the audio story The Oseidon Adventure, forming as a single narrative.
- This audio drama was recorded on 18 August 2011 at The Moat Studios.
- This story is set between The Talons of Weng-Chiang and Horror of Fang Rock.
- This story was originally released on CD and download.
- Leela mentions that she has met Romans. (AUDIO: The Wrath of the Iceni)
- Leela once again refers to the police as "blue guards." (TV: The Talons of Weng-Chiang; AUDIO: The Renaissance Man)
- The Doctor refers to the Zygons (TV: Terror of the Zygons), the Krynoids (TV: The Seeds of Doom) and the Axons (TV: The Claws of Axos).
- The Doctor notes that the Decayed Master has a slightly less "putrescent" appearance than when they last met on Gallifrey. This can most likely attributed to his own theory that the Master was able convert the energy from the Eye of Harmony and effectively heal himself, albeit partially. (TV: The Deadly Assassin)
- Official Trail of the White Worm page at bigfinish.com
- DisContinuity for Trail of the White Worm at Tetrapyriarbus - The DisContinuity Guide