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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Book of Kells


Starring: Paul McGann
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £10.99 (CD), £8.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 478 8
Available 30 September 2010

Anyone who’s prepared to kill for a book interests me.” Ireland, 1006. Strange things have been happening at the isolated Abbey of Kells: disembodied voices, unexplained disappearances, sudden death. The monks whisper about imps and demons. Could the Lord of the Dead himself be stalking these hallowed cloisters? The Doctor and Tamsin find themselves in the midst of a medieval mystery. At its heart is a book, perhaps the most important book in the world: the Great Gospel of Columkille, the Liber Columbae, the Book of Kells...


This audio drama is what fans refer to as a pseudo-historical story. Though based around real historical events (the Book of Kells is a real book, widely regarded as Ireland’s finest national treasure, which mysteriously vanished for a couple of months in 1006, and is now on permanent display at the Trinity College Library in Dublin), writer/director Barnaby Edwards throws in various science-fiction elements, including a dead vortisaur. Even so, I didn’t foresee the return of an old enemy, despite the 11th-century monastic setting and the presence of a cowled monk on the front cover...

The first episode unfolds in a reasonably entertaining and intriguing manner. I thought at first that there weren’t enough Irish accents around, but the narrative explains that there was a strong Norse influence in Irish politics at the time. Then things get a whole lot more exciting when the Doctor (Paul McGann) deduces the involvement of the Meddling Monk! However, Edwards’s plan to fool the listener into assuming that Jim Carter is the Monk didn’t work on me - as soon as the time meddler’s presence was revealed, I knew that he had to be Abbot Thelonious, the character played by the wonderful Graeme Garden. Carter’s Brother Bernard just isn’t the right personality type to be the mischievous Monk. A far more effective disguise comes off right at the end of the story, after the closing credits, with a revelation that suggests that we haven’t heard the last of the Monk.

At last, Niky Wardley gets more to do as companion Tamsin Drew. She is sometimes annoying, as she whinges or makes jokes that fall flat, but the actress provides a very real sense of danger and terror when she is threatened with losing a hand. Unfortunately, the possibilities of me warming to her character may be undermined by the implications of the aforementioned post-credits sequence.

The CD ends with 13 minutes of interviews with the cast and crew, in which Edwards discusses the long gestation period and evolution of his story, which was shelved for a while due to similarities with Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead.

Overall, The Book of Kells is a diverting bit of monk-y business.


Richard McGinlay

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