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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Castle of Fear


Starring: Peter Davison
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 430 6
Available 31 October 2009

1199: returning from the Crusade, Hubert, the new Earl of Mummerset, comes to take possession of Stockbridge Castle, his ancestral home. The only trouble is, in his absence, demons have taken possession of his castle... 1899: the Stockbridge mummers’ play takes a wholly unexpected turn, when the Dragon slays St George... These events are not unconnected, as the Doctor and Nyssa discover. There’s an alien presence squatting in Stockbridge Castle, and it’s their job to expose it. That is, if Turkish knights, killer boars and a gang of rogue paladins don’t stop them first...

And so begins the Stockbridge trilogy, which will feature stories set in the past, present and future of the fictional village created by Steve Parkhouse in the Fifth Doctor’s comic-strip adventures in Doctor Who Magazine. In this opening adventure, set during two points in Stockbridge’s past, writer Alan Barnes throws in references to some of the Time Lord’s previous visits to the village in the comic strip The Tides of Time and the audio drama Circular Time, but nothing too obtrusive for more casual listeners.

In the interviews at the end of the first disc (of two), director Barnaby Edwards and actress Sarah Sutton seem a little unclear as to the origins of Stockbridge, but that doesn’t stop this four-part adventure from getting off to a cracking start, full of mystery and humour. The mystery includes the question of how the Doctor managed to become a character in a play performed in 1899, while the humour includes self-aware serfs who wouldn’t be out of place in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and several amusing anachronisms. John Sessions puts on an outrageous French accent as Roland of Brittany, though he doesn’t “fart in our general direction”, and even this proves relevant to the plot.

Part Two flags rather badly, advancing the plot very little from the point at which the cliffhanger ending to Part One leaves off, but it does feature my favourite anachronism (the “rustle brand”), before building to its own, highly exciting, dramatic peak. From this point on, the story becomes a complex tale of disguises and stolen identities, with many of the characters proving not to be what they initially appeared to be.

Like Patient Zero, the first story in the recent Sixth Doctor “duplicate Charlie” trilogy, Castle of Fear ends on a very similarly structured cliffhanger, which leads into the next release.

The second disc concludes with the eighth mini-episode of The Three Companions, which brings the Brigadier’s (Nicholas Courtney) section of the narrative to a close and promises a more substantial role for Thomas Brewster (John Pickard) in the remainder of the story.

All this, and a cunning explanation for the Fourth Doctor’s peculiar pronunciation of the word “chameleon” in Horror of Fang Rock. Fear not, this is great entertainment.


Richard McGinlay

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