Reviewed By: traves8853
Review Date: 11/15/15 9:46 am
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'Upstairs' involves the Tardis landing in a large labyrinthian attic that like the Tardis seems to unfurl endlessly, until the Tardis crew realise that they are moving through time whilst running on the spot. They eventually discover a large ominously pulsating alien fungus being worshipped by the servants of the house. Written by Matt Coward, directed by Lisa Bowerman; narrated by Peter Purves and Maureen O'Brien.
Firstly, Maureen proved in 'Frostfire' she is a skilled narrator and was able to relays the grouchiness of Hartnell's Doctor by mimicking the tone of his voice rather than trying to vocally contort voice into areas it just won't go naturally, but Peter Purves has shown that he can at least do a passable impersonation of the Doctor's first incarnation. Why Big Finish insists on puncturing the atmosphere by unnecessarily asking female actor's to voice male parts is beyond me. We don't hear male actors trying to replicate female ones, it just doesn't convince. Apart from this, the acting is very good as you would expect but I don't hear the enthusiasm in the voices that I did with the ranges earlier offerings.
For me the setting doesn't help either, it's hard to create the kind of vivid imagery with metaphors for a dusty old attic, which turns out to belong to 10 Downing Street circa 1900, and the nemesis is a type of fungus that in some unexplained fashion can assert its will over others. Early on in the second part the Doctor states that the servants wouldn't cause them any harm, they would just leave them wandering helplessly in the attics. So, it uses its foot soldiers as mouth pieces and is a bit of a pacifist, depriving us of any real menace. It does however lead to a rather amusing sequence where the Doctor, Vick and Steven start rioting in the attics, committing mindless vandalism and emitting Comanche war cries. With such low stakes to play for this fails to be truly interesting, the setting robs us of atmosphere. The plot isn't able to offer us much in the way of mystery either. The resolution is overly simplistic and convoluted.
There are some nice flourishes such as the Doctor's explanation of how the Tardis's food machine rearranges the molecular structure of fungi grown in vats in the Tardis's laboratories to create the food it dispenses, or the tales of hauntings possible being inspired by the Tardis crews' rampage through the Downing Street attics, but on the whole, this feels tired and laboured, although it does at least try and offer us something new.