Doctor Who
Creatures of Beauty

Starring: Peter Davison
Big Finish Productions
RRP 13.99
ISBN 1 84435 026 6, BFPDWCD6CF
Available now

On a world ravaged by an ecological disaster, Nyssa finds herself under arrest, while the Doctor also faces interrogation. But who should the time-travellers side with - the disfigured people of Veln or the aliens they despise? Who is right and who is wrong? It's all a matter of perspective...

Pay close attention as you listen to this audio adventure, otherwise you could end up thinking that the production team haven't edited the story together in the right order! Writer/director Nicholas Briggs takes an experimental approach by conveying events out of sequence. For example, the Doctor (Peter Davison) and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) depart in the TARDIS in Part Three, but arrive during Part Four.

The effect of this shuffling of scenes is to demonstrate, as the movie Memento and the TV show Boomtown do so well, the importance of context when forming opinions about people and situations. The concepts of right and wrong are, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder. Deceptive appearances are what this story is all about, and thus we don't truly find out who the "bad guys" are until the closing moments.

With all the time-shifting going on, the endings to Parts One and Three aren't really cliffhangers at all. Instead, the theme music seems to cut in merely to mark time, and these endings are actually quite confusing. If you were hearing this serial on the radio, you could easily mistake Part Three for the final episode. I think Briggs should have done away with the four-part structure altogether, and just retained one cliffhanger at the end of the first CD.

Nevertheless, this is a bold - and successful - experiment in storytelling. If anything, the structure of Creatures of Beauty is even less formal than an episode of Boomtown, and that's saying something.

Richard McGinlay