(ISBN 1-84435-467-2)




 Jamie McCrimmon and

 his new friend are

 lost on the moors of

 Scotland, where the

 legendary Kelpie



 They are offered

 shelter by Reverend

 Merodach, minister

 of the parish of

 Lammermoor, and

 are welcomed to his

 castle. But strange

 forces are at work

 within its walls,

 and Merodach is not

 what he appears.


 Can the Doctor and

 Jamie prevent their

 powerful enemy from

 taking the TARDIS for




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Night's Black Agents

MAY 2010







Night’s Black Agents is Big Finish’s second cross-range Companion Chronicle venture, the first being last year’s successful Key 2 Time tie-in, The Prisoner’s Dilemma.

However, unlike its predecessor, which was capable of standing alone, this adventure quite deliberately forms an important part of the sixth Doctor and Jamie’s ongoing arc in the main range, to the extent that it picks up directly where City of Spires left off and drives us into the opening scene of The Wreck of the Titan.


When listened to in sequence the result is jarring, to say the least. The change of pace is so dramatic that it almost leaves seatbelt bruising, and after such a prominent performance in City of Spires, Colin Baker’s non-appearance is felt every bit as keenly. As much I’ve come to enjoy the Companion Chronicles for what they are, sandwiching one between two vibrant, full-cast audio dramas inevitably causes its cuts and dents to catch the light.


Matters aren’t helped by the story’s prevailing sense of banality. Here debutant Big Finish scribe Marty Ross tells a story that is polished and proficient, but that fails to take the bull by the horns in the way that Simon Bovey’s arc-opener did. Set entirely within the confines of a castle in Lammermoor, Ross’ claustrophobic script pays homage to a number of Scottish literary works, taking a small gathering of myths and already-established protagonists and having them inhabit a thoroughly traditional Doctor Who narrative. We have the Reverend Merodach, who’s really a demon; his witch of a servant (given voice by director Lisa Bowe-rman), whose head is tilted at such an extreme angle that it’s positively perpendicular; and his bonnie bride, whose mind has fallen under his iniquitous spell, which Jamie is destined to break… It’s textbook stuff that does its job satisfactorily, but there’s nothing here that fires the imagination or sets the pulse racing.


However, as was the case with his two earlier Jamie-centric Companion Chronicles, Frazer Hines makes for an enchanting narrator, really giving the production a much-needed lift and ultimately making it more than the sum of its parts. His Colin Baker impression may not be up to the superlative standards of his Pat Troughton, but he gives it a fair stab nonetheless, nailing the pompous cadences of Old Sixy’s practised tones, if not the actual sound of them. And his older version of Jamie is even better, Hines achieving a pleasing balance between the Doctor’s staunch ally of old and his hard-nosed ‘Black Donald’ alter ego as his character continues to soften in the Time Lord’s company.


Hines is aided throughout

by Ross’ beautifully-phrased

script, which manages to feel

poetic and expressive, without

ever giving the listener cause to

wonder when Jamie suddenly

became so articulate. Jamie’s

descriptions of “faces like twi-

sted apple cores” and the like

are incredibly evocative, yet

still within the boundaries of

the language that the untutored

Highlander is likely to spout.

Merodach, conversely, is blessed with lyrical dialogue befitting his character’s background, meaning that giant of stage and screen Hugh Ross often threatens to steal the show with his dominant, grandiloquent portrayal. However, the production’s most memorable scenes are those that bring the two together and see Merodach and Jamie verbally jousting, the demon challenging the Highlander’s emerging feelings of loyalty towards the mysterious Time Lord with a number of wounding (but nonetheless judicious) observations.


Overall though, Night’s Black Agents is reasonably standard fare, which is disappointing for a Jamie-centred Companion Chronicle in any event, but especially for an instalment in this momentous quadrilogy. Listeners with an affinity for the early years of Tom Baker’s reign will no doubt appreciate the production’s gothic horror feel, and aficionados of The Brownie of the Black Haggs and The Bride of Lammermoor will welcome its reverence, but at the end of the day the most outstanding quality of this one is its comparative mediocrity, which is a great pity given the impressive company that it keeps.


Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010


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