THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE TV
STORY "THE INVASION
OF TIME" AND THE AUDIO
"THE DEAD SHOES."
'HORNETS' NEST: THE
STUFF OF NIGHTMARES'
AUDIO CD (ISBN 1-408-
IN SEPTEMBER 2009.
A MYSTERIOUS ADVERT
LEADS MIKE YATES TO
NEST COTTAGE, AND A
REUNION WITH AN OLD
FRIEND. BUT WHY HAS
THE DOCTOR CALLED
The Stuff of Nightmares
Understandably there has been a lot of excitement surrounding the release of
Hornets’ Nest. Not only does it mark Tom Baker’s first appearance in the series for almost thirty years, but it has been penned by inimitable scribe Paul Magrs, whose recent works for Big Finish, BBC Books and even his own distinctive publishing house Obverse Press have met with considerable acclaim.
The extraordinary feel of this release is typified by its artwork. Striking renderings of both Tom Baker and Richard Franklin sit at either side of the ‘diamond’ Doctor Who logo used
in the television series for the preponderance of Baker’s reign, really setting this Hornets’ Nest series apart from the last thirteen years’ worth of classic series merchandise. Even the gothic font used is delightfully apposite, as are the fold-out liner notes, which house a Radio Times-style billing as well as the Doctor’s ‘lonely hearts’ ad (referred to in the story) and a fictional retort to the same from the magazine’s editor.
The Stuff of Nightmares is also far more piquant a title than it may first appear, given that Magrs’ plot concerns a plethora of stuffed animals being brought back to life by tiny (and presumably alien) Hornets living inside their “origami brains”. Indeed, fans of Magrs’ idio-syncratic brand of Doctor Who are sure to love this inventive and downright bizarre story, which for the most part sees the Doctor assailed by what he colourfully describes as “the crazed cast of The Wind in the Willows”… and a few baboons too, just for good measure.
I don’t expect that the scene featuring the badger and the hot poker will leave my mind any time soon, either - indeed, I’ll never look at a badger the same way again. Not that I make
a habit of looking at badgers, mind.
And, coming from the pen of
Magrs, the whole production
is satiated with beautiful turns
of phrase and memorable one-
liners. “What had I smoked from
the badger’s brain?” and “semi-
permeable; has to be, other-
wise the milkman would get
suspicious” being my particular
favourites. One criticism that I
would offer though is that when
Yates and the Doctor narrate
their respective parts of the
tale, occasionally they both slip into full-blown Magrstian verse. Now this isn’t a problem in the Doctor’s case, as Magrs’ almost lyrical language is perfectly attuned to the bohemian fourth Doctor, but in the case of the former army captain (the admittedly middle-class, well-educated army captain), words like “appellation” and “supercillious” feel a little incongruous, to say the least. Mike was never that verbose on telly!
However, despite my ardour for the story itself, it has to be said that I feel extremely let down with the production. Whilst far from pitiable, The Stuff of Nightmares is light years away from being the lavish, full cast audio drama that I had expected it to be. The CD’s rear blurb refers to it as being a ‘multi-voice adventure’, and that’s what it is – a talking book with knobs on; BBC Audio’s answer to a Companion Chronicle. At £5.49 it’s hard to complain too loudly, but had I paid a tenner or more for this release I’d probably be going spare right now.
This production simply sees Baker recount an adventure for approximately fifty of the seventy minutes, often without interruption for ten to fifteen minutes at a time. After nearly thirty years without the fourth Doctor, BBC Audio certainly can’t be criticised for not making full use of their prized asset! Who knows though? Perhaps it was the prospect of such narrative dom-inance that drew Baker back to the part.
All the same, Baker brings much of his old fervour to the narration, although it is a little flat at times and Franklin’s brief spells are even worse. Both Baker and Franklin really excel when actually playing their characters though, but sadly such instances are few and far between, and from the lead-in to The Dead Shoes given right at the death, I’m not expecting anything different next month.
Further, Simon Power’s score is used relatively sparingly, as are the sound effects. In fact, had I not held the shiny disc in my hand, I would have believed that The Stuff of Nightmares had been pressed into the grooves of an old 1970s LP rather than encoded on a CD, and
no doubt some listeners will love it for that very reason.
On balance, I think that I would have received The Stuff of Nightmares far more warmly had it been an honest Tom Baker reading of a Paul Magrs novel, as opposed to an illusory amal-gam of audio book and audio drama. Nevertheless, the quality of the tale being told coupled with the plain fact that Baker is back is sure to impress many, but for me this release came as a bit of disappointment, particularly after all the hype.
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.
This episode’s dialogue makes it explicit that these events take place some time after the television serial The Invasion of Time. The remainder of the Hornets’ Nest adventures follow sequentially.
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