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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles
The Doll of Death


Author: Marc Platt
Read by: Katy Manning
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99 (CD), £7.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 352 1
Available 30 September 2008

“Retrocausation! Events before their cause. Time in reverse.” While investigating a temporal anomaly in Central London, the Doctor and Jo Grant meet Professor Harold Saunders, a man who possesses an unusual and unstable alien artefact, and who is seemingly haunted by the ghosts of dolls. Who is the mysterious Mrs Killebrew? Why is a pack of hounds hunting them in reverse? And can Jo pick up any bargains while backwards shopping on Oxford Street...?

I usually find Marc Platt’s writing to be a rich confection - so rich, in fact, that I can’t take it all in during my first sitting. When it’s a TV programme (Ghost Light), I need to watch it again at least once. When it’s a book (such as the New Adventures novel Lungbarrow), I find it a slow read. When it’s an audio production, some stopping, rewinding and listening again is usually called for - and this talking book is no exception.

In fact, I didn’t enjoy the first half of this adventure much at all the first time I heard it, but I began to get to grips with it during the second half - which is ironic, because by this time, uh, time has started flowing backwards for the characters, and the tenses get rather muddled in the process. I decided to listen to the whole thing again before reviewing it, and I’m glad I did: the story benefits from a second listen, in light of understanding the true nature of the “ghosts” that appear during the first “forward flowing” half of the narrative.

Platt’s script contains authentic-sounding dialogue for Jo, the Doctor, the Brigadier and Sergeant Benton, and many of Jo’s observations about her time with the Doctor are charmingly idiosyncratic. “Doors marked ‘PRIVATE’ only provoked him”, she informs us at one point, and later on she describes the Time Lord’s laboratory equipment “humming in a monitoring sort of way.”

However, the fact that Jo instinctively “just knows” things like Mrs Killebrew’s name (possibly because of some subconscious connection with her nearby future self, though this is never spelled out) is a rather convenient plot contrivance.

Katy Manning steps effortlessly back into the role of Jo Grant, and also does a nifty rendition of Jon Pertwee’s Doctor, despite her assertion that she “wasn’t endeavouring to do his voice” in the interview at the end of the disc. It’s not an impersonation as such, but she mimics the actor’s intonation and delivery to perfection, and it’s easy to imagine Pertwee speaking the lines.

Musician David Darlington adds to the period flavour with a few well-placed hints of Dudley Simpson’s synthesiser, while Jane Goddard lends support as Mrs Killebrew and the voices of several very creepy dolls (which, incidentally, have nothing at all to do with the Autons).

But most of all, The Doll of Death is Jo and Katy’s story. The dolly bird done good!


Richard McGinlay

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