THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
AUDIO DRAMAS "THE
STUFF OF NIGHTMARES"
'HORNETS' NEST: THE
DEAD SHOES' AUDIO CD
RELEASED IN OCTOBER
WHAT IS SO SPECIAL
ABOUT SOME SHOES
ON DISPLAY IN THE
CROMER PALACE OF
CURIOS? WHEN THE
DOCTOR MEETS MISS
THERE IN 1932, THEY
DISCOVER THE TRUTH
The Dead Shoes
The second instalment of the much-hyped Hornets’ Nest series is a release that I struggled to get excited about, particularly with the Doctor Who market being saturated at present with audio releases the calibre of Patient Zero and Blue Forgotten Planet.
My disenchantment with the type of production that The Stuff of Nightmares turned out to
be is detailed in my review of the same, and I don’t intend to rehearse the same points here, though they do still apply; at least to a certain extent. For present purposes, suffice it to say that this Hornets’ Nest series is more akin to Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles than it is to their full-blown audio dramas, and when approached on such terms I think that most list-eners will find – as I did here – that there really is a lot to like.
Approaching The Dead Shoes without exorbitant expectations was always going to go in
its favour, but even objectively I think that it is a considerable improvement upon The Stuff
of Nightmares. Though the format of the production still sees the Doctor narrating a recent adventure to his erstwhile UNIT colleague Mike Yates (who has only the most limited of roles here, sadly, literally just bookending the piece), it feels much more vibrant than the previous release as there are more speaking parts, and each with a more substantive role. The run-ning time is a good five minutes shorter too, which really helps the pace - there is a lot more action than previously, and far less exposition.
One element that I’m pleased to say has been carried forward from The Stuff of Nightmares though is the quality and sheer inimitability of Paul Magrs’ story. The Dead Shoes is the tale of Miss Ernestina Stott, a 1930s ballerina who, whilst possessed by the alien Hornets, steals a pair of possessed shoes from Cromer’s Palace of Curios that allow her to do “impossible things”, and fling her headlong into an exciting escapade with the fourth Doctor; one filled to bursting with mummified feet, creepy china dolls and even talk of barbequing bluebottles for supper…
And so far as the Doctor’s adventures go, this one is certainly a romp - it feels like a cross between the series’ own Planet of the Giants (or should that be Honey I Shrunk the Kids?) and the Indiana Jones movies. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Doctor’s scarf made so useful so frequently, and with such panache too.
What I particularly like about The Dead Shoes though is that it gives the Doctor a great foil
in the form of his future-housekeeper, Mrs Wibbsey, who in this story is a bitter old Museum Curator under the control of the Hornets. Susan Jameson’s younger – but no more affable! – character is a real joy to listen to, particularly as she verbally spars with Tom Baker’s Doctor.
For his part, Tom Baker gives a
mercurial performance in the role
for which he will forever be reme-
mbered, and accompanied as
he is here by a nearly-companion
in the guise of Clare Corbett’s
Ernestina Scott, he is much more
reminiscent of the Time Lord that
listeners will remember from the
television series. He shares a
lovely rapport with Corbett which
that develops agreeably as the
adventure progresses; Baker
even brings a wicked sense of naughtiness to the proceedings when he demands that Ernestina removes her stockings in his most lecherous voice.
The ongoing plot also thickens here, as we learn that the Doctor and the Hornets are running into one another backwards, relatively speaking, which Magrs describes rather delectably as their “fox-trot through time” or “temporal tango”. During the course of this caper the Hornets refer to an encounter in 1832, which I can only assume will lead us into next month’s chapter, as the Doctor’s assault on Mike Yates’ ears continues…
Inevitably, I enjoyed The Dead Shoes far more than I did its predecessor. The “multi-voice story” handle doesn’t feel like as big a swiz this month given the production’s aural diversity, and the narrative itself is certainly unyieldingly entertaining. At the end of the day though, it’s still a glorified audio book – just a bloody entertaining one.
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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