Reviewed By: dtom
Review Date: 1/26/17 8:41 pm
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Peter Davidson’s 5th Doctor kicks off Big Finishes first solo Doctor Who adventure alongside Mark Strickland’s Turlough. They are joined by the late David Ryall as the sinister Sir Nicholas Valentine. The supporting cast included the at the time largely unknown pairing of David Walliams (Little Britain) and the adventures writer Mark Gatiss (Sherlock, New Who). As the only female in the cast Julia Deakin(Spaced), plays a maid with a hidden secret
Gatiss is well known as a regular contributor to the New Series and co-writer of the Sherlock TV stories. However, he began writing Doctor Who stories in the New Adventures novels back in the early 90s. This tale contains many themes and riffs that Gatiss would revisit in later work such as The Unquiet Dead. In fact, in that story he has Charles Dickens utter the word Phantasmagoria as a little in joke.
The adventure is set 1702, shortly after the death of William III. This is not a time of massive upheaval or important, and seems to have been chosen to simply offer a reasonably easy to identify time period for the coffee house and highwayman threads in the plot
Much of the action centre's around the Diabola Club, a gambling establishment. It is here that Gatiss’ flair for period dialogue works best. Elsewhere, the plot is pure pseudo-historical hokum. But what Doctor Who plot isn’t? This is an adventure that relies on our willingness to buy into the supporting casts likeability and for the most part pulls it off. Gatiss and Walliams excels as Jeekes and Flowers, and their scenes with Turlough are a highlight of the CD’s
My abiding memories of Davidson’s TV Doctor is that of a frustrated Geography teacher dealing with his unruly kids on a field trip. I also recall Strickland’s Turlough as the Ginger Whinger, and as such I wasn’t expecting much when I first played this. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Davidson, plays his Doctor with quiet authority, and Strickland is a star turn here.
The episodes rattle along, helped by the fact that each episode is only 20 or so minutes long. The structure apes the classic Doctor Who format ride down to fake radio times listings in the CD cover booklet and first episode announcement. The Adventure is never going to be a classic, nor will it rate highly in Mark Gatiss’ body of work, but it is no dud either. It’s fun and keeps its charm for the most part upon repeat listening. The audio effects are decent enough without wowing.
One of the opportunities that was missed here was the chance to explore the Doctor-Turlough dynamic. On TV, Turlough and Doctor were never alone. This story is set near to the time when Turlough moves on, and indeed Davidson’s regeneration which followed quickly on its heels. Sadly, the plot sees them parted for much of the time.
In the end this is an affable bit of Doctor Who to fill a pleasant hour or so. It's also available for £2.99, bargain.