Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Minuet in Hell

We conclude the fun first season of the 8th Doctor with a resounding thud. Of the first 20 Doctor Who releases from Big Finish, this is by far the worst. Even the presence of the Brigadier can't save this sorry story. Apparently, the production was pretty troubled: writer Alan Lear was very ill with chronic fatigue syndrome, the script was needed very quickly, and Gary Russel had to hastily rewrite most of the second half of the story. The recordings ended up being way too long, and some harsh edits had to be made. It's obvious that there were problems here as there are some very abrupt transitions from scene to scene throughout the play.

The story takes place around the birth of a new state in the USA. The new state has the dubious name of Malebolgia. I have no idea who thought this was a plausible name, or that the idea of a new state seceding from another was somehow going to happen in 21st century America. We are also subjected to some simply atrocious southern accents in this story. Canadian, Robert Jezek, is very unconvincing as a southern, religious politician named Dashwood. Morgan Deare (an American) sounds a lot like Foghorn Leghorn in his portrayal as Senator Waldo Pickering. Then again, since Pickering is nothing more than a cartoon character, perhaps that's appropriate. But what really makes this story hard to take seriously is the "demon" Marchosias who is not in the least bit threatening, and in fact comes off as more of a comedic character. Poor Nicholas Courtney is mostly wasted in this story. It's a huge drop in quality from his previous Big Finish story "The Spectre of Lanyon Moor".

There is one bright spot to this story: the sub plot with the Doctor losing his memory. The Doctor wakes up in Dashwood's horrific mental institution. He seems to be completely out of his mind and unable to remember who he is. Another recent inmate in the asylum, Gideon Crane, (improbably British) seems to remember more about the Doctor than the Doctor himself does! Crane is played wonderfully by Nicholas Briggs. As Crane seems to be more and more confident that he is in fact the Doctor, you almost become convinced yourself. When Crane and Becky Lee (a pretty transparent rip off of Buffy) are plotting an escape from the asylum you can't help but ponder the idea of Nick Briggs actually playing the Doctor! I also find Dashwood's quiet singing of "Dashwood to the White House...." to be pretty amusing.

In any event, the "demons" are defeated, the evil politician Dashwood is hoisted on his own petard, and the Doctor and Crane's respective memories are restored, but it's a mostly a tedious listen to get there. While it's nice that Nicholas Courtney got to act with all of the first eight actors to play the Doctor, it's a shame that his debut with McGann had to take place in such a mess of a story. At times, there are some funny moments in this story, and I think it would have worked better as an all out comedy. It's certainly hard to take a whole lot of this disaster seriously. 

Rating: Poor


1 comment: