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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Demon Quest


Starring: Tom Baker
BBC Audio
RRP: £9.99, US $24.95 (CD), £3.60 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 4084 6670 4 (CD), 978 1 4084 8052 6 (download)
Available 02 December 2010

Two things arrive on the same night in Central Park, New York, 1976. The first is a fireball from space, bringing a new identity for one Alice Trefusis. The second is the TARDIS, carrying the Doctor and his friends on the trail of an unusual comic book cover. The Doctor’s strength is sapped - but what could cause such a malaise? As he and Mike are mixed up with the police and then taken on an aerial ride over the city, Mrs Wibbsey comes face to face with the legendary Talkies film star Mimsy Loyne. All the while, long multicoloured scarves and floppy felt hats are climbing the stairs of the Dakota Building...

Following an excursion into the realm of fairy tale in A Shard of Ice, which didn’t really do it for me, Starfall tackles an art form that is much closer to my heart - the comic strip, specifically American comic books featuring costumed superheroes.

Writer Paul Magrs tips his hat to the medium in a number of ways. The circumstances leading to Alice Trefusis’s (Laurel Lefkow) new identity as Ms Starfall are a confluence of elements from the origin stories of various heroes from the pages of DC and Marvel Comics. Her boyfriend, Buddy (Trevor White), narrates the story in terms of comic-strip panels and adopts former Marvel president Stan Lee’s favourite phrase, “true believer”. We also hear a catch phrase from DC’s Superman family of titles, “Is it a bird? Is it a plane?”, while the Doctor (Tom Baker) encounters a sort of Time Lord Kryptonite. The homage continues in the mock editorial that appears in the CD sleeve, which includes references to DC’s ’Mazing Man (though it’s possible that Magrs is unaware that there really was a character of that name) and Shazam!

Doctor Who is, of course, no stranger to comic strips, having appeared in the medium for almost as long as it has been on TV. The CD’s cover and title are particularly redolent of the early days of the Marvel UK strip in Doctor Who Weekly and Monthly, when it was drawn by Dave Gibbons and featured stories such as The Star Beast and Stars Fell on Stockbridge.

Lorelei King, who has appeared in numerous superhero audio adaptations by Dirk Maggs, plays the faded movie star Mimsy Loyne. This is ironic given that the younger Lefkow, who is currently charting a similar career path as an American actress based in the UK, plays the kind of character that King might have done in days gone by. Magrs’s habit of imbuing the Fourth Doctor with aspects of Baker’s real-life personality, such as his eye for the ladies, pays off ingeniously when it appears as though the Doctor and Mimsy may once have had a relationship...

As usual, the story doesn’t advance the overall Demon Quest plot arc very much, though it does end with an exciting development that is likely to leave you eager to hear the final instalment, Sepulchre, as soon as possible.

All in all, true believer, I truly believe that Starfall is my favourite episode of Demon Quest.


Richard McGinlay

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