THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
AUDIO DRAMAS "THE
CIRCUS OF DOOM" AND
"HIVE OF HORROR."
'HORNETS' NEST: A STING
IN THE TALE' AUDIO CD
RELEASED IN DECEMBER
IN A BLEAK MIDWINTER,
NUNS PROTECT THEIR
MOTHER SUPERIOR FROM
A PACK OF RAVAGING
SOMETHING IS WRONG
HERE - AND THE DOCTOR
IS ABOUT TO GET STUNG.
A Sting in the Tale
The penultimate part of the Hornets’ Nest series is perhaps its most unusual to date. Devoid of the distinct sense of identity that each of its forerunners have possessed (stuffed toys, dancing shoes, creepy circus), A Sting in the Tale is a roving, exposition-crammed affair that is carried entirely by the wit and eloquence of its writer, Paul Magrs,
and the incomparable charisma of its narrator, Tom Baker.
The story begins in 12th century Northumbria, where the Doctor happens upon a nunnery besieged by ferocious hounds inhabited by the Hornets’ swarm. Upon further investigation, the Doctor discovers that the nunnery’s revered Mother Superior is actually a pig. She isn’t just any old swine though – the Mother Superior carries the Hornets’ Queen within her.
But in spite of the picture painted by Ben Willsher’s evocative cover illustration, Magrs’ story doesn’t linger for long in his native Northumberland (which, incidentally, is the butt of many
a tender jibe here). Before long the Doctor has lured the swarm into the TARDIS, which he then takes out of time and space until such a time that the swarm can be safely disposed of.
“My whole body shook with affronted fury... My hands moved across the
controls with expertise and precision. I watched in appalled fascination
as they made me enter co-ordinates and set the TARDIS in flight...”
The bulk of the narrative seems to focus on the TARDIS-bound scenes. Extended chases through the ship’s gleaming, labyrinthine corridors initially evoke the feel of The Invasion of Time, but as soon as the rampant, Murray Gold-esque score gives way to a much gentler, ethereal, ‘Space Pirates soprano’, the production suddenly becomes much more intimate
and eerie as Baker’s Doctor is slowly contaminated by the swarm; a submission that Baker clearly takes great delight in milking for all it’s worth.
Above: Beware the dogs. Trouble for the Doctor, tonight.
Having delivered the swarm to
19th century Venice and their
appointment with Ringmaster-
to-be Antonio, this instalment
concludes with a lengthy tête
-à-tête between the Doctor and
Mike Yates as all the loose plot
threads are tied up skilfully and
the scene is set for the impending showdown, which I hope will see Tom Baker and Richard Franklin finally enjoy the adventure together that they deserve.
And so despite being the hardest to pigeonhole, A Sting in the Tale is probably the most alluring (not to mention probably the most rewarding) instalment of the Hornets’ Nest saga
to date. Delightfully absurd in places and wonderfully unsettling in others, this pivotal piece
of the puzzle has really whet my appetite for the imminent Hive of Horror as well as, more curiously, aniseed balls.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2009
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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