Vicki has a tale to tell, but where does it start and when
does it end? Ancient Carthage, 1164 BC: Lady Cressida has
a secret. She keeps it deep in the cisterns below the Temple
of Astarte with only one flame for warmth. It must never get
out... Regency London, 1814 AD: the Doctor, Steven and Vicki
go to the fair and meet the fiery Dragon, the novelist Miss
Austen and the deadliest weather you ever did see... But which
comes first? The future or the past? The phoenix or the egg?
The fire or the frost? Or will time freeze over forever...?
Ever since the BBC's "Past Doctor Adventure" novels came to
an end, I had been concerned by the lack of new stories featuring
the first four Doctors. Though there is no shortage of ongoing
adventures with the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors
(thanks to Big Finish's regular monthly audio releases), the
first four incarnations have only been getting scant coverage
in short stories (in the same company's Short Trips
anthologies). That is, until now. This series of audio books
redresses the balance somewhat by providing us with longer
adventures for Doctors one to four (about two or three episodes'
worth on each single-disc release).
Because William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee
are sadly no longer with us, and Tom Baker is unwilling to
participate in new audio adventures, these talking books are
narrated by actors who have portrayed the Doctor's companions.
In each case, the actor in question has worked for Big Finish
before - in this instance, Maureen O'Brien, alias Vicki, who
recently played Alice Bultitude in Year
of the Pig - though hopefully Peter Purves
and Frazer Hines will be persuaded to narrate stories at some
point, based on the strength of their voice-over work for
BBC Audio's Doctor Who soundtrack releases.
Here O'Brien speaks for Purves's character Steven, as well
as most of the other characters. The various voices she adopts
are all sufficiently distinct from one another, though her
rendition of the Doctor does sound more like Patrick Stewart
than William Hartnell.
Notice that I said "most of the other characters". Series
producer/director Mark J Thompson (Soldiers of Love,
The Actor Speaks) is a past master at keeping potentially
dry and dull spoken-word productions lively and interesting,
so each of these talking books also features a second voice
- in this instance Keith Drinkel as the Cinder, who can be
heard during the Carthage scenes. The nature of this mysterious
character will keep you intrigued until the very end. Thompson
also punctuates the reading with sound effects, including
that of the TARDIS interior, and the appropriate theme music
for the era.
Rather less in keeping with the era being evoked is another
weird story from writer Marc Platt. Having dealt with werewolves
and angels in A
Storm of Angels, Platt now turns his attention
towards another mythological creature: the phoenix. Much emphasis
is placed on descriptions of temperature, particularly the
cold and the emotion of fear with which this is associated
- much shivering and blood running cold, etc. The author also
creates an elaborate framing device for his narrative, as
Makers Vicki recounts an adventure set shortly
All in all, Frostfire certainly didn't leave me cold.
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