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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Demon Quest
A Shard of Ice


Starring: Tom Baker
BBC Audio
RRP: £9.99, US $24.95
ISBN: 978 1 4084 6669 8
Available 04 November 2010

In the icy wastes of the Murgin Pass, the Doctor and Mike Yates take refuge in a remote lodge alongside Albert Tiermann, storyteller to the king. But the owner’s hospitality is repaid with a grisly attack, and suddenly death is amongst the small party. What is the significance of a book of fairy tales, one of which prophesies the Doctor and Mike’s encounter with an Ice Queen monster? What long-held secret is Albert Tiermann holding back? And what dark figure stalks the snowy mountainside? The answers to these questions add up to a terrifying encounter with a strangely familiar foe...

Appropriately enough, it was freezing cold and snowing outside as I listened (indoors, with a nice, hot drink) to A Shard of Ice, a story inspired by the genre of the fairy tale, in particular Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. Once again, the art form under discussion is represented by the CD’s front cover (illustrated by former Doctor Who costume designer June Hudson), which resembles a picture from a children’s storybook. And once again, the packaging design team have selected an appropriate image of Tom Baker to furnish the inner sleeve: this time it’s the Fourth Doctor covered in snow in The Ribos Operation.

In this story, the Doctor is accompanied by Mike Yates (Richard Franklin), though Susan Jameson also makes a cameo appearance as Mrs Wibbsey. However, the narration duties on this occasion are not carried out by a member of the regular cast, but placed in the capable hands of Samuel West, who brings great gravitas to the character of the troubled storyteller Albert Tiermann. The cast also includes Jan Francis, who is all but unrecognisable as the Ice Queen.

As the middle part of a series of five, A Shard of Ice fails to set itself apart as a story in its own right. By now we are fully expecting the Ice Queen to have a connection with the shape-shifting demon encountered by the Doctor in the last two episodes, especially when the back-cover blurb refers to “a strangely familiar foe”, making this wintry tale a surprise-free zone. The revelation of the villain’s plans for the Time Lord seems nonsensical: why didn’t she/he/it reveal them on the either of the previous occasions they have met? Though Paul Magrs’s plot seems to be about to depart in an interesting new direction towards the end of the narrative, the Doctor escapes his fate with ludicrous ease.

A Shard of Ice left me cold, and so it gets a frosty reception from me.


Richard McGinlay

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