The Sixth Doctor and Peri arrive at the Museum of Aural Antiquities and get to experiment with the audio-format, while the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa find themselves in Alaska, being hunted by some deadly creatures. Both Whispers of Terror and The Land of the Dead find themselves as some of the earliest Big Finish audio’s ever and they both saw Big Finish beginning to experiment a little more with the audio format…
Whispers of Terror
Written By: Justin Richards
Much like the previous release, Phantasmagoria, I really like Whispers of Terror. While there is nothing on offer to really challenge the listener, its a good, solid adventure for the Sixth Doctor and Peri and Justin Richards makes sure to play with the nature of the audio-drama format.
He litters his script with an audio-monster, a museum dedicated to sounds and noise, and a blind-curator, played by the brilliant Peter Miles, who needs audio-cues, one might say that Big Finish had their work cut out for them. Luckily though, sound designer Harvey Summers litters the drama with unsettling whispers and disembodied voices crying out for help. Richards though makes sure the real danger comes from the words used by opportunist politician Beth Pernell, played by Lisa Bowerman. While the reveal that Beth is the real villain isn’t too much of a surprise, its a fun listen and reveal nonetheless, mostly down to the performance from Bowerman who always brings a little zing to her performances.
While there is still the trademark spatting between Six and Peri, Whispers of Terror does go the extra mile to dial that down and give the Sixth Doctor and Peri a much better Doctor/Companion dynamic. At the time of its release, this was the first time that Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant had been back in their roles as the Doctor and Peri and both slide back into their roles effortlessly. Colin Baker has always been brilliant as the Doctor and much like companions who would be coming back, Peri begins a much-needed re-do of her character and Peri is treated with a lot more dignity here than she was sometimes given in the television series.
Even though this is only the third Doctor Who release from Big Finish, you can see how much they improved in such a short space of time. Whispers of Terror was the first in a long line of early adventures which saw the production team incorporating the audio-medium into their storytelling. The script from Justin Richards sees the Sixth Doctor and Peri at their best and both leads are obviously loving being back in their original roles.
Whispers of Terror isn’t a story that will challenge anyone. What it is though, is a great look at how strong Big Finish was from the very beginning. With Big Finish determined to re-work the characters of Peri and the Sixth Doctor, making him much more compassionate, Whispers of Terror is a great place to start your listen of the Sixth Doctor’s audio adventures.
The Land of the Dead
Written By: Stephen Cole
With the previous three audio-adventures improving greatly upon each release, The Land of the Dead looks to do much the same. Unfortunately, The Land of the Dead doesn’t really have much of a lasting impact, it isn’t bad by any means but just hit the same notes as the previous three did.
Let’s talk about where this story succeeds first. It has a strong atmosphere, with the house the Doctor and Nyssa find themselves in, feeling as much of a character in the story as the characters themselves. There is a creeping sense of unease and a nice claustrophobic feel, something that isn’t easy to achieve on audio.
The Doctor and Nyssa themselves are brilliant too. Peter Davison had already been in two audio’s by this point and had time to get used to the audio-medium. Sarah Sutton also slips back into the role of Nyssa easily, though you can hear her growing with confidence over the course of the adventure. It doesn’t help in the early episodes that’s she’s given some clunky dialogue, otherwise, it doesn’t take Sutton long to find her feet in her original role. One wonders though if this script would have been better suited for a different Doctor as the script does fail to get the character of the Fifth Doctor. It certainly doesn’t match much of his other outings, maybe this would have been better suited for either the Sixth Doctor or the Seventh Doctor.
Cole’s characterisation is decent, apart from one character Gaborik who feels very one dimensional. All the characters do serve a part to the story, though perhaps sometimes Cole seems determined to focus more on them than he does on the Doctor and Nyssa which might feel like a misstep in some scenes. This might have worked but Cole doesn’t really give us much reason to care about any of the other characters apart from the Doctor and Nyssa and the script does feature dialogue heave scenes where action should have been used instead.
But don’t let that put you off The Land of the Dead. It’s a good story otherwise, thanks to the atmosphere that script creates otherwise and the performances from Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton. If you manage to get the CD, the author’s notes do explain that this story was written quickly in a week, probably as a replacement for something else. It’s unfortunate then that the short time frame shows. With too much roaring, exposition-heavy scenes that give Chris Chibnall a run for his money and to much focus on characters we aren’t given a reason to care about, The Land of the Dead falls a little flat. Not quite as dead as the title would suggest, but maybe not as alive as we would want.
Next Time: The Seventh Doctor and Ace return in The Fearmonger and The Sixth Doctor meets his new companion Evelyn Smythe in The Marian Conspiracy.