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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Demon Quest
The Demon of Paris


Starring: Tom Baker
BBC Audio
RRP: £9.99, US $24.95
ISBN: 978 1 4084 6668 1
Available 07 October 2010

Someone has painted the Doctor’s likeness into a famous poster by the artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, leading the Time Lord and Mrs Wibbsey to Paris in the 1890s. There the streets are thronged with artists and their muses - ladies of the night such as a young girl called La Charlotte. However, a murderer is also at large, and Lautrec’s name is whispered with fear and suspicion. As they become immersed in the delights of the Moulin Rouge and the shadows of Montmartre Cemetery, the time travellers gradually uncover the gruesome truth about the missing women of Paris. They also realise that someone has been expecting them...

There’s a definite artistic theme to this series of audios, particularly in its cover designs. The previous instalment, The Relics of Time, featured a Roman-style mosaic, with a cover inspired by the opening titles of I, Claudius. This release pays homage to Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters of the French cabaret performer and nightclub owner Aristide Bruant, whose hat and scarf contributed to James Acheson’s design for the Fourth Doctor’s costume on the television show.

Once again, the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Mrs Wibbsey (Susan Jameson) encounter a figure from history, on this occasion Toulouse-Lautrec himself (Mark Meadows). Writer Paul Magrs delves into Lautrec’s tortured soul in much the same way that Richard Curtis explored Vincent van Gogh’s inner demons in Vincent and the Doctor.

This time Jameson rather than Baker fulfils the narration duties, though there are still plenty of dialogue scenes between the regular and guest cast, which also includes Rowena Cooper as Lautrec’s concierge and Finty Williams as his former muse, La Charlotte. We experience Paris through Mrs Wibbsey’s eyes as she departs England’s shores for perhaps the first time (with the TARDIS only able to move through time, not space, she and the Doctor travel to France by boat and train), tentatively tries coq au vin, takes in the sights and sounds of the city, briefly becomes Lautrec’s model, and faces mortal peril.

The historical period is practically the same as that of The Talons of Weng-Chiang, and the plot covers some of the same ground, as “ladies of the night” fall victim to a mysterious killer that drains them of their life essence. However, the subject matter is even less suitable for small children than Talons, with vivid descriptions of some of the attack victims’ injuries and a manic assault upon the breasts of the women painted on Lautrec’s canvasses.

There are some variable accents, and the villain’s feeble motive is a real cop-out (otherwise I might have given this 8 out of 10). Even so, The Demon of Paris is an engaging story and an intriguing work of art, worth le trek to la bookshop.


Richard McGinlay

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