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Audio Drama Review
Cut off from the TARDIS, the Doctor and Leela find themselves stranded on a small island. But they are not alone. It is 1907, and members of the Caversham Society have gathered on the hundredth anniversary of the death of Mannering Caversham, the greatest Magic Lanternist who ever lived. But Caversham was also a supernaturalist who claimed to have conjured up a demon from the depths of hell. As people start to die, the Doctor begins to wonder if Caversham’s story might have more than a grain of truth in it. Can the Doctor and Leela discover what really happened to Caversham a century ago? And if they do, will they live to tell the tale…?
Though this series of Fourth Doctor adventures takes place during the period of the television show that was produced by Graham Williams, The Darkness of Glass feels as though it belongs to the earlier Philip Hinchcliffe days – being more creepy than comical. It’s worth remembering, though, that the Williams era did contain some throwbacks of its own, such as Horror of Fang Rock. The period and isolated coastal setting of Justin Richards’s tale is highly reminiscent of Fang Rock, as is acknowledged by Leela within the context of the story and by Louise Jameson, the actress who plays her, in the 16 minutes of interviews at the end of the disc.
This is a good story for Leela, whose keen senses come in very useful as the people trapped on the island encounter sights and sounds beyond the normal experience of early 20th-century humans.
Meanwhile, K9 sits this one out, remaining in the TARDIS for the duration, not even heard by us apart from the sound of his metal head drooping in disappointment. His absence is another throwback to pre-Williams days while also being true to the period – the robot dog would get written out of stories from time to time (see Image of the Fendahl, The Power of Kroll and Destiny of the Daleks) because the prop couldn’t handle the terrain on location or the writers had nothing for the character to do.
Speaking of characters, I did sometimes find it hard to distinguish the various members of the Caversham Society, partly due to the actors doubling up. However, there is no mistaking the urbane tones of Julian Wadham (John Steed in Big Finish’s The Avengers) as lanternist Joseph Holman.
A spooky little story that builds up rather effectively, The Darkness of Glass is best listened to with the lights off.
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