(ISBN 1-84435-026-6)




 A planetary

 ecological disaster!

 An incurable,

 disfiguring, genetic

 disease... Aliens, in

 breach of galactic



 Nyssa, under arrest!


 inoperable! The

 Doctor, facing



 Another situation of

 dire peril is unfolding

 for the Doctor and

 his companion.

 However, what if it is

 not clear who is

 right and who is

 wrong? Who is ugly

 and who is beautiful?

 Where does the story

 begin, and where does

 it end? Sometimes, it

 is all a matter of



 PREVIOUS                                                                                  NEXT




of Beauty

may 2003







As a result Briggs’ storyline is actually quite simple – it had to be, really. Creatures of Beauty sees the Doctor and Nyssa arrive on a planet – Veln – which has suffered a massive ecological disaster due to the apparent negligence of another race, the Koteem. This disaster left the Veln moribund and disfigured, the antithesis of vivacious ‘beauties’ such as the Doctor and Nyssa. The Doctor and Nyssa show up, split up, Nyssa is arrested, the Doctor is interrogated, they both escape, compare notes, figure out what’s going on and then bugger off again – easy. But as Briggs says in his author’s notes, this isn’t a story about ‘what’, but ‘how’ and ‘why’ - and it is these hows and whys that make Creatures of Beauty such a terrifying and mesmerising piece of work. Those, and the gravitational performances of the cast, particularly the gravel-throated David Daker, who damn near steals the show through his calmly cruel portrayal of Gilbrook.


In conclusion, then, Creatures of Beauty is not for those looking for a traditional Who fix. By turns perplexing and provocative, these four inspirational episodes comprise a cautionary tale that bring the Doctor’s – and particularly the fifth Doctor’s – shortcomings into sharp focus. “Maybe, just maybe, the Doctor is not the cleverest person in this situation and this time he will not work everything out.” The question is, should he? Your answer to that, I feel, will determine whether you find this bold and breathtaking or depressing and debasing.


Creatures of Beauty explores what this forty-year old phenomenon has all been all about, but instead of affirming it, it draws a tantalising (and, some might say, gloriously apt) question mark after it.  Briggs delights in asking the series’ deliberately unspoken questions out loud, such as “why can’t we just stay in the TARDIS while it repairs itself?” etc. Such a truculent approach would be interesting enough in itself, but Creatures of Beauty takes one step further away from convention by fragmenting and muddling the narrative’s chronology. Its four cliffhangerless episodes are presented in an apparently arbitrary order, prompting those like me who don’t read CD booklets until after they’ve listened to a story to check that they’ve put the right disc in their CD player.  I had to listen to this play twice to be able to understand it (something that you’ll probably find is also true of this review).


Hot on the heels of stories the calibre of The Mutant Phase, Primeval and the incomparable Spare Parts, the next outing for the fifth Doctor and Nyssa certainly had a lot to live up to. And so with Creatures of Beauty Nicholas Briggs made the bold decision to tell a Doctor Who story in a new and challenging way. This four-parter turns the Doctor Who format inside-out – heck, it turns narrative convention inside-out – and, perhaps even more contentiously, does exactly the same to the eponymous Doctor. Creatures of Beauty takes listeners’ knowledge that “… the Doctor is always the cleverest person in any given situation and that he will, by and large, work everything out…” and uses it against them to devastating effect.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006


E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.

Doctor Who is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.