Reviewed By: Drew Vogel
Review Date: 7/8/17 10:52 pm
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I've gone back and forth on this one. I used to absolutely love it, and I wondered how it could possibly have been written by the same guy who wrote 'The Rapture". But when I went back and listened to on subsequent occasions, the magic seemed to have worn off. Suddenly I could see quite clearly that it was written by the same man.
This story feels like a cheat to me. It seems like it's trying to evoke a particular kind of story. It's one of those stories where just a few characters are trapped together in a big old haunted house, and the various hidden conflicts that exist between them are brought out into the open over the course of the evening. This is a tricky kind of story to pull off. It's character-driven, and there's not much action, so you need a good cast that can keep interesting bringing the characters to life. And this story has a very good cast. But it isn't really that kind of story. It's just dressing itself up as that kind of story, and it's doing it in a very obvious and superficial way.
But the cast is doing a lot of work to distract attention from problems in the script (and the problems in this story are almost entirely in the script). There's a scene early on between Jade and Jacqueline which is just the worst kind of info dump. The actors often have to handle a lot of clunky exposition, and they mostly manage to avoid getting bogged down, but it makes for some very clunky dialogue. (There are some moments where the melodrama seems to be too much even for this cast.)
And this story has another one of those annoying framing devices that don't really serve much purpose. This one's worse, because it's a cliche (the seventh Doctor confronting a would-be assassin), because it's filled with annoying self-referential observations, and because the twist (that the Doctor is not there to stop the assassin but rather to take his place) is ludicrous and nonsensical.
Speaking of which, I refuse to take seriously any of the supposed revelations about the history between the Doctor and the Master. It's just too awful. It's painfully contrived, and seriously undermines both characters.It undermines the Master by taking away his agency, making him the helpless victim of a terrible injustice. It undermines the Doctor by making him the perpetrator of that injustice. It's too much. A subtle suggestion of moral ambiguity would have gone a long way. Making the Doctor morally responsible for everything the Master has ever done is taking the point far too far.