THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
NOVELS "LORDS OF THE
STORM" AND "IMPERIAL
BIG FINISH CD#2
RELEASED IN OCTOBER
THE TARDIS TAKES THE
Doctor and Turlough
to the London of 1702
where a mysterious
the streets, a local
occultist has made
contact with the
dead and gentlemen of
disappearing, only to
find themselves in a
walls weep blood...
become enmeshed in
the hideous plans of
Sir Nikolas Valentine,
a gambler at the
Club who always
seems to have a
“Phantasmagoria” is the first ‘regular’ Doctor Who story to be produced by Big Finish Productions. Sandwiched between the televised adventures “Resurrection of the Daleks” and “Planet of Fire” we follow Peter Davison (as the fifth Doctor) and Mark Strickson (as Turlough) through an atmospheric adventure set in London, 1702.
Both the cast and the setting were curious choices for the second release in the range – the fifth Doctor and Turlough are not the first Doctor / Companion duo that spring to mind considering those available, and historical Doctor Who stories were never as popular as their contemporary or future counterparts. They, however, were not penned by Mark Gatiss.
Gatiss’ plot is nothing particularly special, like his novels most of the interest comes from his wonderful characters and not necessarily what they are doing. Despite some excellent performances all round, with only just over ninety minutes of running time and only sound to tell his story I found “Phantasmagoria” somewhat lacking in depth, and could not help but feel that the story would have been better suited to a novel. However, in some ways this works to the story’s advantage; the four episodes fly past quickly yet Gatiss’ still finds time to let his historical knowledge shine through, making the listener feel like they are really listening to something coming straight out of 1702!
And despite my reservations about the choice of regulars, within minutes they were put to rest as both actors performances were torn straight out of season twenty-one – seamless. Moreover, in the early episodes Gatiss uses the character of Hannah as a sort of female companion, giving the play more of a traditional Doctor Who feel. This works very well indeed as once you feel comfortable with her character, at the end of Part Three the reveal that she is not who she seems to be is genuinely shocking – definitely the best cliffhanger of the story.
The rest of the cast are excellent – Gatiss participates himself as Jasper Jeake, a character that would quite easily be able to find a home somewhere in Royston Vasey. David Ryall is
superb as the villain, Sir Nikolas Valentine, and Julia Dalkin does a tremendous job as Hannah Fry. David Walliams also impresses as the ridiculously camp Quincy Flowers – a role that suits him perfectly!
As with “The Sirens of Time” the production values are fantastic – the soundscape of pre-Georgian London was every bit as convincing as the worlds that we visited in “The Sirens of Time” and, listening to the play, the audio caused recurring images of “The Visitation” in my head, probably the television story that this play is most similar to.
All things considered there is much to like about Big Finish’s second release, and I am sure that with a bit of fine-tuning these audio plays can only improve.
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.
This play’s blurb and production code both suggest that it takes place after the television serial Resurrection of the Daleks, with the subsequent fifth Doctor and Turlough audios occurring in the order of release. Simply because the novel Lords of the Storm was released earlier, we have placed this story shortly after it.
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