THE EVENTS OF THIS
STORY TAKE PLACE
BETWEEN THE BIG FINISH
AUDIO BOOK "THE DOLL
OF DEATH" AND THE TV
BIG FINISH 'COMPANION
CHRONICLES' CD 3.10
RELEASED IN APRIL
A heatwave in July
and a tube train is
in twenty inches of
snow. A Saturday
afternoon in Hyde
Park and scores of
people are Frozen
to death where they
stand while the sun
beats down from the
sky... Freak weather
conditions in London,
and the Doctor and
UNIT are called in to
find the cause.
Meanwhile, a street
magician, who was
witnessed at the
scene of the tragedy,
entertains crowds in
As Jo and Mike disobey
orders TO investigate
alone, they discover
an enemy wIth MANY
MAGICAL powers. And
they may not live to
share his secrets...
The Magician's Oath
On paper, The Magician’s Oath couldn’t possibly have looked any better. A UNIT-
era escapade featuring arguably the most remarkable character from that setup, penned by the writer of one of the better BBC Audio tenth Doctor talking books? I’m sure that I wasn’t the only listener with my appetite well and truly whetted.
And on most fronts, this Companion Chronicles lives up to its great promise. Writer Scott Handcock has done a great job of running with range producer David Richardson’s initial idea, turning a tube train buried in snow in July into something that’s more than the sum of
its parts. Handcock’s script is exceedingly evocative of the televised UNIT stories, yet a
little of the tone and the background of some of the UNIT-era novels is also allowed to seep through, together with a flurry of near-references to the “Unified Intelligence Taskforce” and the Doctors of today. The resultant production has a thoughtful, expansive feel to it that sets
it apart from many of its fellows.
For his part, as ever, Richard Franklin gives a great performance, not just as Captain Mike Yates, but as the Doctor and the Brigadier too. Although there isn’t any real chance that the listener will mistake his impressions for the apposite actor (as one might with Frazer Hines’ channelling of Patrick Troughton, or even Nicholas Courtney’s imitation of Jon Pertwee), he nails the respective essences of his erstwhile colleague’s characters.
Franklin is aided and abetted in his delivery of this story by Michael Chance, who plays the titular magician, Diamond Jack, and does so with great allure. At first I was quite sceptical as to how interesting the worn-out old magician angle would prove, but Chance’s magically gruff performance, combined with some exquisite and unforeseeable twists in the second episode, completely blew such preconceptions out of the water.
The tale itself is one of two halves – Episode 1 is measured and moody, whilst Episode 2 is rapid and action-packed, casting Yates as a dashing, Bond-like maverick. Handcock’s plot is cleverly interwoven with the story’s framing device, gently exploring the not-quite-romance between Mike Yates and Jo Grant, and then scrutinising the same with the benefit of many years hindsight, all thanks to a literal memory stick, as it were. Indeed, many of my favourite sequences see the older Mike looking back on these events with the wistful regret of an old war horse.
My only real disenchantment with
The Magician’s Oath is its failure
to explore the tragic weaknesses
in Yates’ character, which would of
course see him briefly turn traitor
in the chronologically-subsequent
story, Invasion of the Dinosaurs.
Paul Magrs’ was able to examine Yates’ regret recently in the final chapter of his Hornets’ Nest series, but even so, it would have been nice to have seen such areas explored in the bookends here. Maybe next time…
When all’s said and done, The Magician’s Oath is a must for fans of the UNIT era. Though
it doesn’t pander to miserable swines like me, who want to hear about an old, angst-ridden ex-army Captain ruing his past mistakes, it does do a glorious job of fleshing out the under-stated relationship between Mike and Jo without ever crossing any lines, whilst managing
to tell an exciting and surprising UNIT-style adventure at the same time.
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.
This story’s blurb places it between the television stories The Dæmons and Day of the Daleks. Within this gap, we have placed it after the audio book The Doll of Death, which was released later.
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