Monday, June 25, 2012
Whispers of Terror
I suppose it was only natural that when making Doctor Who in an audio only medium that they would eventually do a "sound monster" story, and Big Finish didn't waste any time by providing one here in their third release. Writer Justin Richards wanted to do a story which couldn't have been done on television or novels, and he succeeded. The sound effects are quite dense in this and it was apparently a very difficult production to create. The setting of the Museum of Aural Antiquities ends up as the perfect setting for such a sound-oriented story. We basically have a political thriller centered around a recently deceased (or killed) politician named Visteen Krane. The museum has captured his last, unheard speech due to the former actor's obsession with rehearsing all of his speeches before delivering them to the public. The speech is about to be aired to the public for the first time as a tribute, where the public will hear who he was going to name as his running mate. This seemingly would have been his trusted adviser Beth Purnell, but naturally, all is not as it seems. Oh, and right before the speech is to be broadcast there is a sound monster running around the museum killing some people.
Hmm, I don't make it sound really good do I? Fortunately, it's a terrific story. The Doctor and Peri are great here. Instead of having irritating arguments with each other, there are just gentle quick jibes at each other that come across as slightly vexed affection instead of actual friction. It's hard for me to remember how I first reacted to this kinder, gentler Sixth Doctor now - since I first heard this story around 9 years ago before Big Finish had astoundingly transformed Colin Baker into my favorite Doctor. But the transformation for me likely began here or in his next story "The Marian Conspiracy". Listening to this now, the Doctor's boisterous arrogance puts a big grin on my face. As I listened to this last week while walking on the beach, I was even chuckling a bit out loud listening to the Doctor's rantings. Nicola Bryant slides right back into playing Peri as if she was filming the series the previous week instead of around a dozen years before this was recorded.
The most notable guest star (in my ears) is Peter Miles as the blind museum curator Gantman. Miles made his most famous TV Who contribution was as Davros' henchmen Nyder in the all time classic "Genesis of the Daleks". His voice is instantly recognizable (at least to me) in his opening lines. It's somewhat novel for me to hear him as a gentle "good guy" here. Matthew Brenher is also notable as the deceased Visteen Krane. Beth Purnell is played by Lisa Bowerman who also tackles the role of Bernice Summerfield for Big Finish. (I'll have plenty to say about "Benny" when she appears in some Doctor Who stories later.)
The story is suitably creepy when the sound monster is menacing the various characters and it's done with a lot of frankly disturbing audio. When I recently listened to this I noticed how VERY similar the music (done by Nick Briggs) was to the music of Colin's era. This isn't generally something I think Big Finish tries to do. Richards makes good on his ambition to tell a story that would only work on audio, and it goes beyond the presence of the sound monster. It's really a great story and the best of the first three. Big Finish would go on to dabble a bit more with the sound monster idea, but it never works as well again as it does here.