Doctor Who

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Thad
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Re: Doctor Who

Postby Thad » Sun Jun 13, 2021 12:19 pm

Master (Seventh Doctor; Geoffrey Beevers as the Corpse Master; written by Joseph Lidster)

On the surface, this is a haunted house story and a murder mystery -- an amnesiac Master is living a seemingly peaceful life in an old manor house, but people in the house hear a whispering voice and behave strangely. And meanwhile, somebody's been killing prostitutes. (This serial's pretty violent, BTW.)

But that's all just surface detail. What this is really about is mood. It's about creating an oppressive sense of dread, of doom and inevitability. The haunted house and the murder mystery? That's just window dressing.

It's definitely not a fair mystery. I mean, it's not difficult to guess who's been killing prostitutes out of a cast of only five characters, one of whom is the Doctor, but the real reveal is that the Master has amnesia because the Doctor made a deal with Death; Death agreed to let the Master live a normal life for ten years, after which the Doctor would return to kill him. Needless to say, there is not enough information given in the narrative to lead the audience to deduce this conclusion.

The serial, and its reliance on the physical manifestation of Death as a character -- which the Doctor just takes as a given and doesn't question -- doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense, and I was ready to chalk it up to the Doctor, who's telling the story, as an unreliable narrator (he even says "Don't believe a word I say" in dialogue, for God's sake) -- but then something happens, in the framing sequence, that indicates that no, all that stuff really happened the way he's describing it, so...best chalk this one up as a fairy tale and not think too much about the logic of it. (And that's before we even get into the time travel/continuity aspect, which the serial does not: the Seventh Doctor should already know what's going to happen to the Corpse Master, and if he's really trying to change his fate, that should have serious ramifications for the Doctor's own timeline -- but none of that is addressed.)

But if you can get past all that, and focus on the mood? That sense of dread and inevitability? The serial does a great job with all that stuff. Ultimately I'd say there's a dreamy quality to this one; it doesn't make a lot of sense from a plotting or continuity (either internal or in the context of the wider Whoniverse) perspective, but I don't think it's meant to. It's meant to be a mood piece, and it succeeds.

Recommended.

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Thad
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Re: Doctor Who

Postby Thad » Mon Aug 16, 2021 4:56 pm

The Wormery (Sixth Doctor/Iris Wildthyme; Written by Stephen Cole and Paul Magrs)

This one uses the Casablanca/Cabaret/etc. premise of a WWII-era bar as a jumping-off point: everybody comes to Bianca's. That's where the Doctor has a chance encounter with his old friend Iris Wildthyme.

This is my first encounter with Iris, but from what I gather she's sort of the Rule 63 version of the Doctor (or was; now the Rule 63 version of the Doctor is the Doctor), a Time Lady who ran away from Gallifrey and now travels the universe in a TARDIS that looks like a double-decker bus. (And she's played by Katy Manning, who played Jo Grant on the TV series; the script makes a brief reference to that connection when the Doctor says that he and Iris spent some time traveling together after Miss Grant left. Which, okay, I'll try not to overthink the implications of Jo going off to get married and the Doctor immediately replacing her with someone who looks exactly like her.) She spends a good chunk of this serial drunk, because...well, the plot gets a little silly here, because the worms in the tequila are psychic alien parasites.

Not the most impressive Doctor Who monster, and my other criticism of the plot is that it resembles Bang Bang-a Boom a little too closely; both stories reach their climax around a singing competition, and involve subplots where the Doctor is hypnotized and falls in love with a woman who's up to no good.

All that aside, it's one of those stories where a strong atmosphere makes up for a weak plot, and there's also a satisfying twist in part 4 that I really should have seen coming because they foreshadow the hell out of it.

I liked this one; I feel like the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Baker and Manning both do great work. I wouldn't put it in my top tier of Big Finish serials, but it's perfectly serviceable, and it's an old one, so it's cheap, frequently on sale for half-price, and probably on Spotify too.

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Re: Doctor Who

Postby Thad » Wed Sep 15, 2021 3:05 pm

Scherzo (Eighth Doctor/Charley; Written by Robert Shearman)

This one's not as strong as Shearman's other serials, but that's a high fucking bar to clear, and Scherzo is still a fascinating and compelling piece.

The Doctor and Charley have been trapped in another universe (this continues a previous storyline but you don't need to know the details; I just caught you up on everything you need to know) where it's not even clear what the laws of physics are. And, in a particularly inspired use of the medium, they can't see; they're in a world of sound without sight.

So we've got a setting that's legitimately weird in a way most Doctor Who planets aren't, a mystery of just what this world is and how it works, and a clever use of the audio medium. And on top of all that it's strikingly minimalistic; there's nobody in this one except McGann and Fisher (yes, they eventually encounter an alien adversary, but it speaks through their voices). And against this backdrop, it's fundamentally a piece about those two characters: the Doctor is pouting because he was trying to make a big heroic sacrifice, and Charley ruined it by joining him instead of letting him save her.

The whole thing kind of starts to sink under its own weight and the weight of Doctor Who narrative convention near the end; there are some reveals that aren't particularly satisfying and don't really make a whole lot of sense, and by the end the world seems a lot more conventional than it did during the first half. But despite some problems sticking the landing, it's still a really easy one to recommend; even Shearman's worst is still one of Big Finish's best.

(Okay I guess I can't quite definitively call it Shearman's worst since he wrote one more after this one and I haven't heard it. But I didn't like it quite as much as his first four. Still really good, though!)

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