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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Destiny of the Doctor
Smoke and Mirrors


Author: Steve Lyons
Performed by: Janet Fielding
Publisher: AudioGO / Big Finish Productions
RRP: £10.20, US $16.95
ISBN: 978 1 4713 1171 0
Release Date: 02 May 2013

The Doctor answers a psionic distress call being sent from England in the 1920s. There, in the environs of a fairground, he is reunited with an old friend: Harry Houdini. To Adric and Nyssa the name means very little, but to the Doctor’s companion Tegan he is a legend. Escape artist extraordinaire, Houdini’s reputation will last for decades – but how come he knows so much about Tegan? Is it really just guesswork, as he says? Is Harry right to be concerned about the fairground’s fortune teller, who claims to have supernatural skills? Both he and the Doctor suspect an alien influence may be at work. Somewhere in the shadows, a sinister and all too familiar presence is lying in wait for them...

After years of resisting its lure, Janet Fielding is finally embracing a return to Doctor Who. During the last couple of years she has reprised her role as Tegan Jovanka in several full-cast audio dramas for Big Finish Productions (the latest trilogy of which is currently underway) and now she narrates this, the fifth entry in the 50th-anniversary Destiny of the Doctor series of audio books.

Steve Lyons’ story fits right in between Black Orchid and Earthshock, with another visit to Earth’s past, Tegan beginning to enjoy her travels in the TARDIS, and other recurring themes from Season 19. However, despite the potential excitement of a trip to a period of Doctor Who that hasn’t very often been depicted in spin-off media, not to mention the thrill of the fairground location, the narrative didn’t really come alive for me as much as I expected it to.

Part of the problem, unfortunately, is in the narration. Fielding cannot seem to lose her Australian accent when voicing other members of the TARDIS crew, so the crucial opening line sounds as though it is spoken by Tegan, rather than Adric as it is meant be. This is strange, since the actress managed to speak with more neutral tones when her character was possessed by the Mara in Kinda and Snakedance. Perhaps she can only achieve this when she is in villainous mode – lending credence to this theory, she does show more vocal dexterity when playing the baddie here, a role she seems to relish. Fortunately, further vocal variety is provided by Tim Beckmann as Houdini.

The Doctor has mentioned meeting Harry Houdini several times before in the series, though this is their first encounter in a full-length adventure. Here, too, Lyons knows his stuff. We hear about other meetings, and even get a “clip” from one of them, which perhaps lends a new significance to Ben Jackson’s use of “the old Houdini track” in The Highlanders. Could it be that he learned it from the man himself?

The recurring motif of the Destiny of the Doctor series crops up somewhat earlier than usual in this story, and it has a rather refreshing impact upon the plot.

Despite my earlier struggle, there’s really no escape, and Smoke and Mirrors managed to move me by the end.


Richard McGinlay

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