A 19th-century freak show has a new star exhibit, a strange
creature that resembles an oversized human foetus encrusted
with barnacles. In fact, it is an injured Zygon...
Merrison, who guest starred in the Doctor Who TV serials
The Tomb of the Cybermen and Paradise Towers,
plays physician Sir Frederick Matravers in this clever and
darkly witty spin on The Elephant Man. Matravers is
a corrupt version of Frederick Treves - he wishes to remove
the "Barnacled Baby" from the freak show, just as Treves wished
to free John Merrick, but for less than philanthropic reasons.
Merrison is no stranger to audio drama, being a frequent performer
on BBC radio, particularly in his long-running role as Sherlock
Holmes, and seems totally at home in the Victorian setting.
Watling, alias former Who companion Victoria, who appeared
alongside Merrison in Tomb, plays another Victoria
this time: the Queen herself. She also portrays a contrasting
(and uncredited) role as an East-end barmaid, Vera, a sort
of 19th-century Peggy Mitchell.
Watling and Merrison are the "big names" among the cast, larger
roles are played by Nigel Peever as the sadistic owner of
the freak show; Kerry Skinner as his abused but compassionate
daughter Doris; and Henry Burge as the Zygon Demeris. Doris,
who has recently lost her own baby, finds comfort by caring
for Demeris, and the two develop something of a rapport. The
Zygon has provocative (and typically BBV style) discussions
with Doris, during which he shares his amusingly alien views
on subjects such as Christian faith.
Keetch's script develops established Zygon mythology, and
manages to work around the absence of the technology that
Zygons usually use, when mimicking the forms of other beings,
to store body prints. At one point Demeris refers to his thoracic
transmitter, which is presumably an explanation for the microphones
that were sometimes visible on the costumes worn during Terror
of the Zygons! Doris's solution to Demeris's need for
lactic fluid (that's milk to you and me) is definitely something
that works better on audio than it could have on TV.
conclusion of this inventive tale also craftily ties in with
real historical events. No demerits for this one, then.