Reviewed By: Drew Vogel
Review Date: 8/30/17 2:11 pm
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The first time I listened to this story, I didn't care for it much at all, as seems to be the general consensus. But I've found that it has grown on me quite a bit as I've re-visited it over the years. Now, while I wouldn't exactly count it among my favorites, I consider it quite an enjoyable story.
The main attraction, of course, is Roy Hudd as Max Miller. If you aren't completely charmed by his performance, you might as well give up and listen to something else. Personally, I could listen to him banter with the Doctor, Evelyn, and Billy all day long. I had never heard of Max Miller before listening to this story, but I feel like I know him extremely well thanks to how vividly the character was written and performed. It's hard not to be reminded of "The Unquiet Dead". In both stories, the guest star was played by an actor who was also an expert on the subject's life and work. In both cases, this helps to create at least the appearance of authenticity (I don't know enough about Dickens or Miller to comment on actual authenticity), which is a big part of what makes each story work.
Both stories, after all, are quite simple and formulaic renderings of ideas common to sci-fi in general and to "Doctor Who" in particular. Neither story is especially fresh or new or original. This doesn't bother me. Most "Doctor Who" stories, in any medium, hew closely to familiar concepts and tropes. What sets a story apart is the details. Both this story and "The Unquiet Dead" benefit from their setting. The stories may be mostly familiar, but they take their particular character from the time and place in which they are set.
Despite enjoying this story rather more than most, it seems, I agree with many of the criticisms that detractors level at this story. If you're the sort of person who listens mostly for plot (no criticism intended), this story is probably not for you. The plot here is just an excuse to have an adventure with Max Miller in Brighton. That's what the story is really about, IMO.