THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
AUDIO DRAMAS "THE
DEMON OF PARIS" AND
A SHARD OF ICE'
AUDIO CD (ISBN 1-408-
46669-8) RELEASED IN
TERROR STALKS THE
SNOWY WASTES OF
THE MURGIN PASS.
A STORYTELLER IS
WAYLAID BY THE
ARRIVAL OF A BLUE
BOX, AND THE DOCTOR
SEES A FIGURE IN THE
A Shard of Ice
Of all the Demon Quest adventures, I get the impression that Paul Magrs enjoyed writing this one the most. A Shard of Ice is a romantic tale blazing with intoxicating imagery and metaphor, and with a strong moral message at its centre to boot. Doctor Who stories will often have a lesson or two slyly buried in them, but this story’s is so explicit that it could reasonably have opened with a Clone Wars style proverb: “hard work is its own reward”, or something of that ilk.
For this third chapter, the storytelling duties fall to Albert Tiermann, a native of 19th century Prussia from whose perspective events are witnessed. As a teller of tales to the King, and fairytales at that, Tiermann is an ideal mouthpiece for the story’s author, who is able to really indulge his fantastical propensities here. Samuel West, whom Doctor Who audiophiles will remember played the title role in 2008’s Big Finish production The Vengeance of Morbius, gives a magnificent performance as the tragically tormented Tiermann, beautifully capturing and conveying the ambitions and fundamental failings that threaten to break him. Listening
to him wax lyrical about having to incessantly “cudgel” his brain for new and exciting stories makes me wonder if Magrs hasn’t instilled a little of himself in the character – as one of the Whoniverse’s most prolific scribes and a busy author to boot, his wits must suffer one hell
of a “cudgelling” on a regular basis.
Unlike Magrs though, Tiermann would not be so prolific were it not for his Ice Queen muse, with whom he has entered an almost-Faustian pact. So desperate was Tiermann to top his celebrated father’s work that he let his muse place a shard of ice in his heart, purportedly to prevent him from experiencing any substantive emotions in the real world, but allowing him
to fully invest his feelings in his stories and their characters. But of course, even Tiermann’s great triumphs bring him only grief, as deep down he knows that his works aren’t truly his own, and worse still, his demonic queen has an agenda all of her own…
Tom Baker is at the top of his game
here, particularly in his scenes with
Samuel West. As if Tiermann’s deal
with the devil weren’t enough, having
the Doctor walk into his life carrying a
book full of the author’s future works
gives rise to some wonderful dramatic
tension, as well as some fascinating
questions. Can a writer plagiarise his
future self? And if he does, were they
really his works to start with? Magrs
does well to steer clear of paradox and timey-wimey turbulence here, instead focusing on the personal issues raised, and doing so with real finesse.
Furthermore, in her Ice Queen incarnation, the shape-shifting Demon is at her sinister and seductive best. Jan Francis does a terrific job of building upon Rowena Cooper’s fleeting performance in the last episode, her icy allure proving the perfect foil to the Doctor’s warm detachment. Richard Franklin doesn’t fare quite as well though, I’m afraid, as his character
is only really required to give the Doctor someone to conspire with and lecture to, but on the whole A Shard of Ice is richer for his presence, which if nothing else provides a little aural diversity.
A Shard of Ice boasts Tom Baker at his best, and Paul Magrs in his element. Those with a fondness for Magrs’ more fanciful works such as The Scarlet Empress and The Wishing Beast are sure to be enchanted by this frosty fable, as I’m sure are many more besides.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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