Reviewed By: thisoldcan
Review Date: 5/20/17 9:24 pm
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In May 2017's Fourth Doctor Adventures release, the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana (Lalla Ward) are on their way to visit the birthplace of MR James, when they are suddenly drawn into a mystery surrounding a haunted house called Malkin Place. Mysterious noises and apparitions appear in the house, making the tenants uneasy. Skeptical as always, the Doctor decides to investigate this house, but he soon realizes he may be in over his head, and he has to work to find the cause of these hauntings. The Haunting of Malkin Place, Phil Mulryne's first work for Big Finish, is a noticeable step up from some of his other work. Baker is on top form here, while Romana works well in this story as a soothing presence. The story itself, of a house caught in a complex temporal event from the future, makes for a rather interesting little story, especially given the rather excellent ending.
Tom Baker and Lalla Ward once again reprise their roles as the Fourth Doctor and Romana II. Baker is on rare form here in this story, giving an excellently funny performance of Mulryne's script, making it really pop. I particularly liked the scene where the seance reveals that there is in fact a "haunting" of some kind, and Baker plays the scene with a fine mix of perplexed and just a bit scared that there actually is something. Throughout the story, Baker gives a fine performance, one of his best to date. Similarly, Ward gives a strong performance here in this story, acting as a rock for many of the characters throughout the story to lean on. I've made note that Ward's demeanor has changed in recent years and that the "fun" of her performance that she had back when she was on the show has somewhat disappeared. It works in some stories, but it doesn't work in others; here is a case of the former, where her "no bullshit" attitude serves to make her stand out a bit more, acting as a supportive character for the rest of the cast, in a way that she couldn't have done if she the more whimsical Romana II.
The guest cast was a solid guest cast, but in particular, Gunnar Cauthery and Simon Jones stood out as Maurice, Beatrice's brother who never quite came back from the war, and Talbot, the spiritualist who comes to investigate Malkin Place. Cauthery gives a strong, emotional performance throughout, selling the hell out of his pained, doubtful performance, especially in the final moments of the play, as he's ripped through time to save Jack. Similarly, Jones gives an exceedingly honest performance throughout; I appreciated the way that Jones' Talbot felt like a really honest character, as if they actually believed in the spiritual. They had a nice full arc throughout the story, and they really felt like an interesting one-off character, who I'm glad Big Finish introduced to the series.
Phil Mulyrne's script for this story was an overall enjoyable affair. It wasn't the best script I've ever heard, but it was an enjoyable, temporally complicated story, and so far, the highlight of this series of the Fourth Doctor Adventures. I liked the idea of an actually haunted house, and while, for the most part, they explained it as a temporally complicated situation where things from the future were bleeding into the past, I'm happy that Mulryne was able to stick with it, with Denise Black's Mrs. Mountford being revealed as a ghost herself at the very end of the story. Other than that, I found myself quite liking the creepy nature of the story, and the mechanism for the haunting of the house. It's not exactly an original idea, but it's an enjoyable one nonetheless, and Mulryne really made it his own, spinning an emotional tale of loss and courage in the end. I liked that Mulryne had Maurice sacrifice himself towards the end of the story, as it helped to really drive home the emotional centerpiece of this story. While I felt that the story somewhat meandered in the second half of the story, it was still, overall, an enjoyable enough script by a spotty writer, and proof that he can write some excellent stories.
Overall, The Haunting of Malkin Place was an enjoyable affair. The story is really led by two excellent performances by Tom Baker and Lalla Ward, but helped by a solid guest cast, most notably Gunnar Cauthery and Simon Jones. The script by Phil Mulryne was enjoyable enough, and was a clever little emotional tale. What I liked most is how Mulryne stuck to his guns throughout the story, making it a really creepy horror tale, and leaving an ambiguous ending. It was a joy to listen to, and it may be Mulryne's best work to date.