The Doctor and Charley land inside an Edwardian mansion on
Christmas Eve. They don't remain in festive spirits for long,
however. Someone - or something - is killing off the servants
of the house in the most brutal and macabre manner possible,
each murder taking place precisely on the chime of the hour...
run the risk of appearing to be fixated with Sapphire and
Steel. Having recently compared the BBC Doctor Who
novel Anachrophobia to that vintage ITC series, I am
now going to raise the subject again.
you can't really blame me this time, since the sleeve notes
confirm that writer Robert Shearman's pitch to Big Finish
described this adventure as a cross between Sapphire and
Steel and Upstairs Downstairs. There are certainly
plenty of spooky goings-on here, with time itself as a likely
culprit for the killings, fast-forwarding the clocks towards
the next hourly murder. An examination of class divisions
is also included, and is splendidly realised by the actors
portraying the servants, each of whom looks disparagingly
down upon those who happen to be lower on the social ladder
of this tale are also strongly reminiscent of Ghost Light.
The "haunted house" setting (albeit in a slightly more recent
historical period), the sinister ticking and chiming of a
grandfather clock, and Russell Stone's creepy incidental music
all conjure up a flavour of that offbeat 1989 Who serial.
But Shearman's script exhibits an even darker sense of humour
than that of Marc Platt, featuring some staggeringly sick
and twisted deaths, each of which alludes to the function
fulfilled by the unfortunate servant in question.
opening instalment, in which the Doctor (Paul McGann) and
Charley (India Fisher) find themselves unable to interact
with the seemingly frozen timeline of the mansion, is similar
to the first episode of The Space Museum - though to
compare this magnificently realised work with that 1965 plodder
does not seem very flattering at all!
plot also bears a basic resemblance to Shearman's previous
Big Finish masterpiece, The Holy Terror (a hard act
to follow), which similarly featured a group of characters
unknowingly trapped within a cyclical sequence of events.
But I'm sure we can forgive him for that (just as we can forgive
Big Finish for accidentally re-running a line of back cover
blurb from last month's Invaders from Mars). Beyond
its basic framework, this story establishes its own distinct
style and appeal.
have heard The Chimes of Midnight! You should hear