THIS STORY TAKES
AFTER THE TV STORY
PRIOR TO THE BIG FINISH
BIG FINISH 'COMPANION
CHRONICLES SPECIALS' CD BOX SET (ISBN 1-84435-551-8) RELEASED IN AUGUST 2011.
Aboard the TARDIS,
Turlough records a
testimony about a
recent adventure; A
trip to Buzzard Creek
in the USA, where he
encountered the sin-
who claims to have
discovered a cure for
every known illness...
The Companion Chronicles were originally conceived as a vehicle for the first four Doctors, who - due to either death or plain old grouchiness - are unable to participate in Big Finish’s better-known full cast audio dramas. This ‘bread and butter’ type of tale was effectively showcased to the readers of Doctor Who Magazine last year with Katy Manning’s free downloadable performance of The Mists of Time, but this month Big Finish are giving away a production that will show DWM’s readers just how broad the remit of the range can be.
What sets a Companion Chronicle apart from an audio drama is the singular insight that it offers into the thoughts and feelings of its narrator; an insight that has led to some thoroughly fascinating audio books featuring later companions, which could have been produced as full cast audio dramas instead. And Freakshow is a particularly fine example of this - had Big Finish been able to twist Janet Fielding’s arm (something that they’re getting better at) then Freakshow could have been a contender for the main monthly range. However, somewhere along the line a decision was taken to make it a Companion Chronicle; to shift the onus; to show us the inner workings of the sharp and scheming mind of Mark Strickson’s Vislor Turlough.
And particularly in its first half, Mark Morris’ script does a magnificent job of conveying the ambiguity that most viewers associate with the character. Picking up the tale immediately after the events of his traumatic showdown with the Black Guardian in Enlightenment, the Turlough that we hear at the start of this story is frightened and insecure; so much so, in fact, that he doesn’t even want to be aboard the TARDIS, where the Doctor is giving him the cold shoulder and the excessively petulant (even for her) Tegan Jovanka really has her knives out. Incidentally, Mark Strickson’s rendition of the erstwhile Australian air hostess is really something to be heard.
As we enter the second of the two episodes though, Morris’ story unavoidably begins to focus more on the narrative and thus take on a more ‘traditional’ Doctor Who feel. Toby Longworth’s delight of a cliché, Thaddeus P Winklemeyer (or “Willy Wonka”, as Tegan boorishly dubs him), is brought right to the fore, and Turlough himself takes more of a backseat as the Doctor and Tegan arrive in Buzzard Creek to rescue him from the freakshow that he finds himself imprisoned within.
The whole production has an authentic Western feel to it, though please bear in mind that when I say ‘authentic’, I mean that it put me in mind of Back to the Future, Part III; not that I’m any sort of authority on the period. I particularly like the idea of the alien freakshow, which works very well in the Old West setting and would no doubt have Ricky Gervais’ pet podcast monkey, the freak-obsessed Karl Pilkington, literally salivating.
More negatively, some elements of the story feel a little hackneyed. Winklemeyer’s “elixir of life” – a cure-all that isn’t actually a cure-all, but a means of propagating his species on Earth – stands out above all, particularly given the propinquity of James Swallow’s relatively-recent new series tie-in novel, Peacemaker.
Furthermore, as was the case with The Mists of Time, Big Finish aren’t showing off the full potential of their startlingly proficient download system here. Once unzipped, the Freakshow file comprises just one seventy-minute mp3 track devoid of any sort of tagging or cover art, which is hardly likely to impress those who like to break up the listening experience - if they can find the story on their iPods to begin with, that is.
Ultimately though, these trifling quibbles do not detract from what is, at the end of the day, a thoroughly pleasurable yarn. A thoroughly pleasurable yarn with the most appealing of price tags…
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.
No propositional guidance accompanied the release of this Doctor Who Magazine freebie, however it is clear from the narrative that these events take place immediately after the television serial Enlightenment.
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