2 out of 2 found this review helpful.
While some may argue that The Darkness Of Glass is a mere rip-off of Horror Of Fang Rock or Image Of The Fendhal, Darkness is, to me, more of a companion piece. Oh yes, it has all the tropes and classic ideas that those stories posess in great quantities. But it also features enough to make it different from those two different pieces. Unlike some of the other Fourth Doctor Adventures, therefore, it feels more original than some of the other pastiches and similar stories that the Fourth Doctor Adventures has given us thus far.
The story itself is deceptively simple, with a plot that unfolds casually over it's hour-long run time. However, as the story unfolds, it becomes much more complex and involving, with some wonderful moments. The setting is brilliantly painted, and, by placing the action in a few rooms and one building, the action becomes so much more inclosed, and tense. That's certainly palpable, which is something that should be obvious in these scripts, especially on audio. What is interesting about the plot is that, in many ways, it's incredibly visual. The visual trick of the lantern show is something which, in normal Big Finish Doctor Who, I would reccomend be avoided. However, here it really seems to work. There is occasionally some slight descriptive language, but that is well masked, and the visual concet comes across well on audio. Another aspect of the plot that I liked was that the demon was kept until the end to really emerge from the shadows. Normally, the monster is really revealed, so that the Doctor can trade barbs with it in the second episode. However, here the demon only appears at the very end, leaving it's true power rather thinly sketched out. Normally, this would be a big no-no, however, Richards takes that gamble, and it really pays off, because it keeps the creature in the background as a mystical force. This isn't about the monster; it's about the tension that is built up, and the creepy setting. It's also about how the characters react to each situation, which feeds directly into how the characters react with each other.
Like The Exxilons, the characters are little more than stock types. However, unlike Briggs, Justin Richards advances the characters a little more, by giving them journey's to go on. For example, Miss Summersby starts off a mysterious character, potentially villain material. However, by the end, that has been completely reversed. And it's the same with Mortlake. He begins as an obvious goodie, but, by the end of the story, he has become a complete baddie. This subversion is so well executed that it seems almost effortless. Other characters such as deLacy and Holeman may not get as much development as the others, but what's there is still impressive, especially deLacey starting out as a coward and then becoming something more by the end. As I said, however, this story is all about the atmosphere, so the characters aren't used prehaps as they should be. However, it still doesn't mean that it's disappointing. One thing that Richards does absolutely nail is the dynamic between the fourth Doctor and Leela, especially Leela's senses. The pair of them work together so very well under Richards' stewardship, and both Tom and Louise work so very well together. They bounce off each other so well, that it makes me truly believe that this team has, certainly in recent years, become one of the best TARDIS teams of all time. Tom and Louise are completely invested with the material, and in the relationship being presented. The guest cast are excellent too. Mark Lewis Jones makes an excellent villain, not overdoing it, but giving the part of Mortlake enough subtle nuances for you to know that something is going on with his character. Julian Wadham is also excellent, despite the fact he proberbly has the least to do out of the five guests. Sinead and Rory Keenan cement themselves as part of the Big Finish rep company with two peerless performances as a range of characters, all of whom are distinct enough for you to realise that their different people, even in the same scene. Nick Briggs gets to have a few lines as the Demon, but his main turn comes in the directing chair, in which, he's very good. He gives the actors real focus, allowing the more descriptive bits of the script to come through in the piece very naturally. Nick is, to me, a pivotal part of these Fourth Doctor Adventures, because it's his strong directing work that often keeps the stories moving. When combined with the peerless work of Jamie Robertson in the sound design and music region, it makes for some exciting listening.
The Darkness Of Glass is a peerless example of the fourth Doctor on audio. Everything that a lot of people have accused this series for is revoked here, particularly the view that it's stories are merely a popery of rehashed ideas that have been better handled elsewhere. It's a great example of a tense, dangerous and thrilling story that may be slow, but it's still an excellent piece of well written drama that allows it's actors to have real fun, while telling an enjoyable story at the same time.