5 out of 6 found this review helpful.
Night Thoughts is two things: a very early example of a Lost Story being adapted for audio, and one of the creepiest Doctor Who stories ever. Many stories, like House Of Blue Fire or Winter For The Adept are great examples of stories designed to scare the audience, but not one of them compares to Night Thoughts, which is utterly, utterly terrifying. All the different elements (the tension, the plot, the sound design) come together to make a story which is an addictive listen.
Often, Doctor Who 'ghost' stories play upon the traditional cliches (opening doors, drafts that blow out candles, something lurking in the shadows), but Night Thoughts also uses the macabre and silence to great effect. It's absolutely terrifying, with plenty that keeps the audience engaged. Edward Young's plot may have been written back in the late 80's, but it's still just as scary as it would have been back then, even more so now, because the kind of psychopathic villains that inhabit this story aren't the manic, wild-eyed, forces of nature that we would usually experience in stories of this nature, but rather natural people going through manic events. And, as the plot develops later on, the story takes some rather more interesting directions regarding time and the nature of death. However, it's not helped by the rather long episodes, and this means that, at times, it gets rather mixed up with itself. That doesn't mean that it's not interesting, just that, if the episodes were a little shorter than they are, then it would have a lot more impact. Mind you, that doesn't detract from it's rather well placed horror. The whole story isn't one ghostly chill after another, but rather moments of incident well spread out throughout the piece. That allows time for character interaction and moments of examining the moral complexity of the situation, rather than all out scares, which can sometimes become predictable and dull. This story actually seems to owe a lot of it's debt to Ghost Light, something which I can quite clearly see in my mind's eye when listening to this story. Only, while Ghost Light played with evolution, this plays with time in other ways. The idea of creating a device you can use to send a message back in time is an inspired one, especially because, in a story as creepy as this one, it can cause serious ramifications. It leads to a chilling final scene - one in which the true horror of the story is unleashed.
Because of the isolated nature of the piece, we only have a few guest characters. However, that isn't a problem, mostly because these are deep, well thought out characters. All of their motives are well defined and they are certainly are an interesting bunch. There's a level of madness to all of them, another trick which feels very rendolent of Ghost Light. Major Dickins, is by far, the maddest of them all, and that really takes some beating. Each of Young's characters, however, certainly feel real, except prehaps Sue, who, at times, merely comes across as a cliche of every troubled, in care teen I care to mention. Mind you, the addition of Happy the torn rabbit is actually a creepy way of reinforcing the madness that society (represented here by the academics) can push on people. And to bring these characters to life, Big Finish have assembled a strong cast. Namely, the recently deceased Bernard Kay is incredible as Dickins, proberbly his best work in the Whoniverse. By disguising that madness behind a stiff, upper-lipped attitude, it really brings that madness as close to us as possible. Lizzie Hopley is also brilliant as Sue and Happy, however (while there all well acted), the rest of the cast do sound incredibly similar. That means that, at times, the voices do merge into one. Ace and Hex are also given plenty to do in this one, although in Ace's case, it's mostly getting put through a load of dangers. Mind you, Sophie Aldred and Philip Olivier are brilliant in this one, bringing out the sibling rivalry between the pair of them more than previous audios. And while he doesn't say as much, Sylvester McCoy's presence is felt throughout, and his vocal tones only add scares to the story even in moments of relative lightness. The constant repetition of "'will you walk into my parlour?' Said the spider to the fly" is spine-tingling. The creepy stuff is always best for McCoy: he really knows how to freak out an audience. Gary Russell's direction is taught, despite the earlier niggle, and he really manages to get the right beats out of his performers. He's well aided by Andy Hardwick and Gareth Jenkins, who make sure that the music and sound design is in perfectly the right place. These stories, which have less action and more thrills, are dependent upon the right actions by their sound designer, and that's something that's prevelant here.
When all is said and done, Night Thoughts will never win any awards. Yet it's clear that Night Thoughts is a creepy, well thought out audio, with plenty to recommend it and plenty to enjoy. Yes, there are problems, namely the length of the episodes and the somewhat difficult to distinguish vocals of some of the guest actors, but, as a whole, Night Thoughts is a creepy, thoughtful audio that will scare the pants of anyone. If your not scared at least once during this audio, then you don't have a soul. Simple.