Zagreus was the fiftieth story in Big Finish's monthly range. It was written by Alan Barnes and Gary Russell and, to celebrate this story being Big Finish's fiftieth release and the 40th anniversary, the cast includes every single performer of a Doctor Who companion and Doctor to have worked with Big Finish at the time of production. Most perform roles different from their usual ones. As a result, this was the first audio story where Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann all appear together. To date, the only other audio dramas in which all four actors have appeared are The Four Doctors (which was released in 2010), The Light at the End (which was released in 2013) and Collision Course (which was released in 2019). Tom Baker appeared with them in the latter two stories while David Tennant appeared in Collision Course.
FOUR DOCTORS - ONE DESTINY
Zagreus sits inside your head
Zagreus lives among the dead
Zagreus sees you in your bed
And eats you when you're sleeping.
Following directly from the events of Neverland, the casket of anti-time which was destined for Gallifrey had exploded within the confines of the TARDIS. It seems that the Eighth Doctor and Charley have saved Gallifrey, and that the paradox of Charley's existence had been resolved, but the Doctor begins behaving strangely — he has been taken over by Zagreus.
The Doctor/Zagreus rages through the TARDIS and strikes Charley, but there is a loud explosion, and when they recover the Doctor/Zagreus is alone in the TARDIS. Charley finds herself in Harley Street talking to her mother Lady Louisa Pollard, who mentions amongst other out of place information that one of her sisters is called Romana. Charley is taken to see a Dr Zagreus, and her mother turns into a white rabbit from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Charley then meets someone whom she recognises as the Brigadier.
The Doctor/Zagreus, unsure of his true identity, stumbles into a TARDIS library. He hears a mysterious voice in the TARDIS, that of one of his previous incarnations, the Third Doctor. The Brigadier tells Charley that everything she has seen is a holographic projection created by the TARDIS. She is then shown scenes from her own memory to provide her with insight into what has happened to the Doctor.
The Doctor leaves the library through a secret passage and finds a part of the TARDIS unaffected by the anti-time infection, from where he is able to converse with Zagreus. Zagreus shows him all possible alternate time lines, including universes where the Doctor plucked out one of his own hearts, and tells the Doctor that he would destroy all of them if he was unleashed.
Charley and the Brigadier find themselves in another holographic projection, this time a 1950s army barracks. Charley realises that the Brigadier is also a hologram, created by the TARDIS. The Brigadier mentions something called "The Divergence" and says that the Time Lords would not be able to intervene lest they become infected with the anti-time. In the TARDIS, the Doctor hears the Third Doctor's voice again and finds a book The Alice Compendium in which he reads Charley's name and the phrases "the divergence" and "Nana Saviltride".
Charley and the Brigadier realise the projection is of Cardington, where the R101 was launched in 1930. There, a Doctor Stone is conducting an experiment, which causes a huge explosion. The Doctor hears the explosion and rushes to the TARDIS control room, but finds himself instead in a forest. There he encounters a huge talking Cat and a large metal box. The Cat tricks the Doctor into entering the box and seals him in with a cyanide bottle, which is a Schrödinger's cat demonstration. The Doctor realises the meaning — if he left the TARDIS he would become either fully himself or fully Zagreus.
At Cardington, Stone argues with the base chaplain Matthew Townsend about his research. Townsend expresses reservations about possible military applications of Stone's research, and wonders about the course of human evolution. Charley overhears Stone talking about the military application of "Dionysus" — the code name of her project. It had torn a hole in reality, which might be used as a weapon. Miss Foster, who had told Charley and the Brigadier that she was a military secret agent, tries to plant a bomb on the Dionysus project; she was in fact a spy for communist Cuba. Threatening to kill them all, Foster forces Townsend to operate the machine, creating another rift in time. All but Charley and Townsend are sucked into the rift; on the other side of the rift are creatures trying to break through.
On ancient Gallifrey, the Great Mother and her High Priestess Cassandra await the arrival of Provost Tepesh and Lady Ouida. Upon their arrival, they discuss why their groups despise Rassilon. Rassilon has destroyed followers of the Great Mother's religion, and Tepesh is of the Arcalian Chapter, whom Rassilon has hunted nearly to extinction. Together, they plan to attack Rassilon's Foundry, his secret base. Charley and Brigadier are between holographic projections. They discuss what they saw at Cardington, creatures from outside of the boundaries of time and space trying to break through. Charley wonders aloud whether she could take the Doctor's place by absorbing Zagreus into her, allowing the Doctor to go free.
The Doctor is beginning to unravel the mystery. The Cat is another avatar of the TARDIS. The Doctor's being in the forest was to protect him from events elsewhere. He realises "Saviltride" is an anagram of "evil TARDIS", from which he deduces that not only was his only personality split in two, so was that of the TARDIS.
Tepesh and the Great Mother enter Rassilon's Foundry where they meet Charley, however they perceive her as being Rassilon. Cassandra says something which offends Tepesh, and he orders Ouida to kill her and drink her blood. She cannot regenerate as Rassilon was still in the early stages of the genetic experimentation into the Time Lord gift. When an automated system reveals some of Rassilon's secrets, Charley discovers that Rassilon, fearing for the survival of the Time Lords, created self-replicating biogenic molecules and sent them back in time. The effect of these molecules was to ensure that all life-forms in the universe evolved to something approximating the Gallifreyan norm. To prevent creatures from the Divergence entering our universe, he then sealed time into a loop. The Dionysus Project that Charley saw at Cardington had breached the loop, allowing creatures from the Divergent universe to enter ours.
Tepesh reveals that the Vampires had only drunk the blood of specially bred animals, but Rassilon's purges forced them to drink the blood of intelligent species in order to survive. He refrains from attacking Charley/Rassilon until he has discovered all the Foundry's secrets. The automated recorder reveals the Foundry draws its power from the Divergent universe. When the Brigadier advises Charley to switch off the power, this allows creatures from the Divergence to break through. The Great Mother reveals that Rassilon stole the secret of regeneration from the Vampires, and that much of Time Lord technology was stolen from the Divergent universe. The Foundry's defences seal off the whole base and prepare to fire storm it to prevent the escape of the Divergent creatures. The Brigadier and Charley escape through a mirror, but Tepesh, Ouida and the Great Mother are killed.
Charley finds herself within another scenario, and this time her appearance is that of a 6-foot-tall (1.8 m) mouse in battle armour. She is in some sort of bizarre theme park where animatronic animals are battling with animatronic humans. The Doctor meanwhile is fighting against the TARDIS, destroying parts of its architecture. The Brigadier arrives, and is revealed to be an avatar of the TARDIS's Zagreus personality. To defend the TARDIS, the Brigadier summons a Jabberwock, and the Doctor flees. Charley encounters Goldilocks, the leader of the enemy humans. They are fighting to get control of the Animator, but both sides wish to release him from suspended animation so they do so. The Animator, Walton Winkle, was suspended in the year 2367. To his horror, he discovers he has been in suspended animation for 60 billion years and has awoken on the dead world of Gallifrey, which the theme park was moved to. They are on what was once the Foundry, and the animatronic creatures have fallen under the influence of the Divergence creatures. They revived Winky to operate the controls of the Foundry machines, but he dies of the heart condition which he had entered suspended animation to survive.
Having escaped the Jabberwock, the Doctor now plucks Charley out of the simulation. Charley is unable to trust the Doctor as he had hit her earlier, and she no longer trusts the Brigadier avatar. Rassilon himself appears and reveals that after the explosion, the Doctor and Charley had been unconscious for six months, in which time Rassilon had persuaded the TARDIS to aid him in exchange for freeing it from the Doctor/Zagreus's influence. On Gallifrey, Cardinal Braxiatel informs Romana that the Doctor's TARDIS has dematerialised of its own accord. Leela then arrives with a message from Rassilon concerning the fate of the Doctor.
Romana, Leela and K-9 transmat to Rassilon's tomb within the dark tower. Rassilon's spirit speaks through Leela, and leads them to a Matrix simulation of the Dark Tower in ancient times. Meanwhile, Charley informs Townsend, Tepesh and Winky that they are Zagreus's recreations of the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors, and also the only people to have ever seen the Divergence. Charley tries to persuade them to go to the Dark Tower, but Tepesh is reluctant to play the Game of Rassilon. The Jabberwock then appears, but Charley subdues it by reciting nonsense poetry, using it to fly them into the Dark Tower.
Rassilon demands that Romana resign from the presidency in favour of Zagreus. When she refuses, Rassilon uses the possessed Leela to attack Romana and K-9, whose head gets knocked off. The Jabberwock crashes into the Dark Tower, but Charley and the recreated Doctors make their way inside. Their passage is blocked by a booby-trapped chessboard and hear a riddle from Rassilon. The Doctors think the answer is related to the number pi, but upon crossing Winkle is nearly hit by a bowspike. Instead Charley deduces that they must move across using the knight's move in chess. They find Leela attacking Romana, and Charley knocks her unconscious.
Rassilon and the Brigadier avatar have chained up the Doctor and are preparing to torture him. When the Doctor asks about Charley, the avatar flies into a rage, ranting about how the TARDIS had suffered in its many adventures with the Doctor, especially its recent absorption of anti-time to save Charley. The Doctor realises the TARDIS is jealous of Charley. Rassilon summons the Doctor and the Brigadier into the Foundry, which he proudly declares to be the place where he created the Nemesis and the De-mat gun. Rassilon shows them a frozen solar system — one which housed a species which could have threatened the Time Lords. The Brigadier avatar destroys the police box shell of the TARDIS in the Foundry's smelting works.
From the Dark Tower, Romana, Charley, the Doctors and a K-9 find a secret entrance to the Foundry through the mirror. Townsend cracks a code in Old High Gallifreyan, proving they were created from the Doctor's memories and thus retain some elements of his knowledge. Pushing past the Brigadier, they find the Doctor by an anvil creating a sword from the molten TARDIS shell. Rassilon believes that he has destroyed the Doctor's sanity thus allowing Zagreus full control. The Doctor's other aspects tell him Rassilon is manipulating him as a weapon against the creatures of the Divergent universe, as the creatures of the Divergent Universe would have evolved to surpass the Time Lords before Rassilon locked them away. Rassilon seizes the anti-time sword and slays all the Doctors but the Eighth. Charley, Romana and Leela try to avoid being shot by the Brigadier and Romana transports him into the crucible.
The Doctor gives the anti-time sword to Charley, and begs her to kill him before Zagreus takes over. Charley cannot kill him for she loves him, but when the Doctor tells her that he does not love her, she pierces him with the sword before breaking down in tears. The Doctor does not regenerate, however; when Rassilon killed Townsend, Tepesh and Winkle those parts of him were removed, and when Charley stabbed him they were restored saving him from death. It is Zagreus who awakens, but when Rassilon commands him to enter the Divergent universe to slay the creatures, Zagreus instead throws Rassilon into the Divergence to face his fate, refusing to be Rassilon's puppet. Zagreus prepares to attack the Doctor's companions, but the Brigadier arrives and overpowers him. In the crucible, the TARDIS had been restored. Now free from the anti-time infection, the Brigadier avatar gives Zagreus a "drink me" potion which purges the Zagreus influence from the Doctor.
The Doctor tells Charley that she must leave him — the zero matter in the "drink me" potion has stabilised him, but he is still infected by anti-time. He intends to travel to the Divergent universe to quarantine himself forever and protect the universe from the anti-time infection. Charley storms out of the TARDIS, whereupon Romana speaks to the Doctor telling him that he will never be allowed to return and the Time Lords will prevent him from doing so if he tries. Romana leaves the TARDIS and it dematerialises. Romana asks Leela where Charley is, and Leela asks Romana if she was aware that the TARDIS had a back door. Leela asks if Romana still finds her stupid and Romana says this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
The Doctor prepares for his new life in the Divergent universe, excited by the prospect of seeing new worlds and new people. He is not yet aware that Charley will be seeing them with him ...
- Reverend Matthew Townsend – Peter Davison
- Lord Tepesh – Colin Baker
- Walton Winkle – Sylvester McCoy
- Zagreus - Paul McGann
- Charley Pollard - India Fisher
- Romana – Lalla Ward
- Leela – Louise Jameson
- Rassilon - Don Warrington
- The TARDIS/Brigadier Image - Nicholas Courtney
- The Doctor - Jon Pertwee
- Lady Louisa Pollard – Anneke Wills
- Receptionist – Stephen Perring
- Miss Lime - Elisabeth Sladen
- The Cat - Conrad Westmaas
- Captain McDonnell - Mark Strickson
- Miss Foster – Sarah Sutton
- Stone/Ouida – Nicola Bryant
- Mary Elson - Caroline Morris
- The Great Mother – Maggie Stables
- Cassandra/Goldilocks - Bonnie Langford
- The Recorder - Robert Jezek
- Corporal Heron – Stephen Fewell
- Captain Duck – Sophie Aldred
- Sergeant Gazelle – Lisa Bowerman
- Cardinal Braxiatel – Miles Richardson
- K9 – John Leeson
- The Big Finish website does not credit Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor.
- Jon Pertwee's lines, though they had not been heard in any other official production, were not actually recorded for this story due to his death seven years prior. Instead, they were sampled from Pertwee's contributions to the unlicensed production Devious and were edited around the Eighth Doctor's dialogue.
- Charley encounters a Jabberwock, and quotes long passages of Jabberwocky.
- The background of Zagreus is explored.
- The TARDIS is jealous of the Doctor and Charley's friendship.
- The heart of the TARDIS is comprised of Zero Matter.
- When the TARDIS "disappears," K9 scans for its presence in the Humanian Era, the Peon Era, the Morestran Era and the Sumaran Era.
- This is Doctor Who's 40th anniversary story and Big Finish's 50th regular release. To celebrate, the cast includes every single performer of a Doctor Who companion and Doctor to have worked with Big Finish at the time of production though most performed roles different from their usual ones.
- As of 2020[update], this is not only the longest release in the main range, but it is Big Finish's second longest release, with a duration of 3 hours and 55 minutes. Only Dominion is longer at 3 hours and 58 minutes.
- Jon Pertwee's voice is taken from a fan production, Devious, which featured Pertwee in a regeneration sequence. A twelve-minute excerpt from the unfinished film was released on DVD by BBC Video in 2009 as a bonus feature with The War Games.
- To date, this story marks the only full appearances of K9 and Irving Braxiatel in the main range of Doctor Who audio dramas, notwithstanding Braxiatel's brief "off-screen" cameo in The 100 Days of the Doctor. It was also Leela's only appearance in the main range until Time in Office in 2017. Furthermore, it marks the first appearances of both Leela and K9 in a Big Finish audio drama.
- Peter Davison, Paul McGann, Nicholas Courtney and India Fisher are the only actors to appear in all three segments of the story (Wonderland, Heartland and Wasteland).
- This story marks the only appearance of Elisabeth Sladen in the main range prior to her death on 19 April 2011, and her only audio appearance with a Doctor for Big Finish; Sladen more prominently featured in the Sarah Jane Smith audio series.
- This audio drama was recorded on 15, 22, 26 and 28 August, and 2 and 5 September 2003 at The Moat Studios.
- The Doctor states that one of the alternate timelines he can see is one where he plucked out one of his hearts, an inaccurate description intended to reflect the events of PROSE: The Adventuress of Henrietta Street, in which Sabbath plucks out one of the Doctor's hearts.
- The Sixth Doctor states that he "never got to Blackpool", a reference to the planned but ultimately unmade television story The Nightmare Fair. Big Finish Productions would later produce an audio adaptation of the story in 2009.
- The Doctor mentions a timeline where Time Lords had tremendous mind powers, likely a reference to the webcast pilot Death Comes to Time, a story this wiki sets outside its bounds for an in-universe source according to site policy.
- A half hour making of documentary was released on Living Legend with DWM 337 the same month to promote the story.
- This is one of the few Big Finish releases to use digipak style packaging to accommodate for the third disk; this was also used for The Settling to accommodate for a bonus promotional disk.
- Despite being the fiftieth title in Big Finish's Main Range, it was released after the fifty-first story, The Wormery.
- According to the half hour making of documentary, the fact that the story was the 50th Main Range release was accidental.
- This story was originally released on CD. It is now available as a download, as well as to stream on Spotify.
- When they arrive in the Death Zone, Townsend, Tepesh, and Winkle allude to Dorothy's line "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" from The Wizard of Oz.
- Winkle's story is a pastiche of the Walt Disney Company. Winkle is a take on Walt Disney; he cryogenically froze himself to be revived later, just as Disney is rumoured to have done. Similarly, Winkle's theme park is extensively based on Disneyland, from its mountain rides to its use of animatronics. Finally, the animatronic combatants reference Disney characters. For example, Tinkle is undeniably Tinker Bell from Peter Pan.
- Zagreus was first mentioned in AUDIO: Project: Twilight.
- Charley recognises Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart from their encounter in Malebolgia in 2003. (AUDIO: Minuet in Hell)
- Romana has met the Brigadier before. (PROSE: Heart of TARDIS)
- When he is trying to remember the name of the TARDIS, the Doctor calls it "Bessie". (TV: Doctor Who and the Silurians, et al.)
- Ace previously read the copy of Through the Looking-Glass found in the TARDIS in PROSE: Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible.
- The simulation depicting the 1950s shows Project Dionysus, strongly implying it is a project of the Forge, since Professor Stone used the phrase "For King and Country" and secretly communicates with a deputy director. (AUDIO: Project: Twilight, Project: Lazarus, Project: Destiny)
- The Brigadier states that "we're little more than a product of a lifetime's memories, Time Lords even more so", echoing the Fifth Doctor's statement on the Eye of Orion that "A man is the sum of his memories, a Time Lord even more so." (TV: The Five Doctors)
- While Zagreus is looking for Charley, he exclaims "Yssgaroth curse you!" (PROSE: The Pit, The Book Of The War, et al.)
- Charley mentions that the Doctor escaped from Colditz Castle in October 1944. (AUDIO: Colditz)
- In her personal timeline, Leela's next encounter with the Doctor would occur when she was sent on a mission to Victorian London where she met the Sixth Doctor. (AUDIO: Chronoclasm) She later encountered an alternate version of the Sixth Doctor known as the Burner Doctor on the Gallifrey of an alternate timeline. (AUDIO: Disassembled)
- The Doctor views himself standing on the planet Oblivion facing a race known as the Horde. (COMIC: Oblivion)
- The Doctor refers to the Oracle on KS-159. (PROSE Tears of the Oracle)
- Reverend Townsend's successor as the Cardington airbase's chaplain was Simon Murchford, who decided to become an Anglican minister to assuage the survivor's guilt which he suffered after the crash of the British airship R101 on 5 October 1930. The R101 had been launched from Cardington. (AUDIO: Storm Warning, The Next Life)
- The Doctor mentions that he has met Grigori Rasputin. He encountered him for the first time in Zarechny, Siberia in 1903 during his first incarnation in the company of his granddaughter Susan Foreman, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. (AUDIO: The Wanderer) Subsequently, during his third incarnation, he, Liz Shaw and Jo Grant became involved in the events surrounding Rasputin's murder at the hands of Prince Felix Yusupov and his co-conspirators Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich and Vladimir Purishkevich in the Moika Palace, St Petersburg in December 1916. (PROSE: The Wages of Sin)
- The Doctor claims that he was once accused of the assassination of John F. Kennedy on 22 November 1963. During his ninth incarnation, he would witness the assassination in person. (TV: Rose)
- The Doctor recalls his encounter with John Polidori in the Villa Diodati near Lake Geneva in Switzerland in June 1816. (AUDIO: Mary's Story)
- Leela and Charley previously met aboard the Fourth Doctor's TARDIS in an alternate timeline. However, they both lost all memory of this encounter when the proper timeline was restored. (AUDIO: The Light at the End)
- The Doctor refers to people having seen a "grey lady" in the TARDIS engine rooms. (COMIC: A Life of Matter and Death)
- The Fifth Doctor's comment that "I very much fear that the moment's not been prepared for" is a reference to the Fourth Doctor's last words. (TV: Logopolis)
- There is a reference to the Gallifreyan nursery rhyme about the entrance of the Tower of Rassilon - "above, between and below". (TV: The Five Doctors)
- Reverend Matthew Townsend quotes the Fifth Doctor, saying "There should have been another way" (TV: Warriors of the Deep) and "Is this death?" twice. (TV: The Caves of Androzani)
- Walton Winkle quotes the Seventh Doctor, saying "If we fight like animals, we'll die like animals." (TV: Survival)
- Eventually, Gallifrey is empty of Time Lords. (PROSE: Dead Romance, TV: Hell Bent)
- An ancient and rusted wonderland occupies the ruins of one Gallifrey. (PROSE: The Story So Far...)
- After Charley escaped from the Ever-and-Ever Prolixity, a Viyran agent was stationed on Gallifrey to search for her. (AUDIO: The Fall of the House of Pollard)
- Tepesh is afraid of the Drashigs. (TV: Carnival of Monsters)
- The lost of the Eurydice is mentioned. (AUDIO: Omega)
- Official Zagreus page at bigfinish.com; note that it is out of print and is available as download only.