The first volume of Paul Magrs' Demon Quest audio series was an enjoyable romp for Doctor Who fans. Tom Baker was back again as the Legendary Time Lord, with Susan Jameson in tow as companion Mrs Wibbsey, the Doctor's Housekeeper. After Mrs Wibbsey exchanged crucial components of the TARDIS for four mysterious, historical artefacts (all featuring a likeness of the Doctor), the time travellers must travel back and forth throughout Earth's history to learn the significance of the items, reclaim the TARDIS components, and unravel the identity and motives of the being who has put them on this chase.
Upon returning from Ancient Britain, The Doctor and Wibbsey's mission has now brought them to Paris in 1894, where the Doctor is surprised to discover himself in a painting almost identical to the famous poster for real-life comedian/cabaret singer Aristide Bruant. Painted by the exact-same artist, Toulouse-Lautrec! But while the Doctor tries to solve the mystery, a more sinister one is plaguing Paris. People are disappearing and Lautrec is being notoriously suspected. But as the truth slowly starts to unravel, what consequences will this spell for the Fourth Doctor and his companion?
The first part of Demon Quest - The Relics of Times - was an entertaining start that established the premise of Paul Magrs' arc, but there was some content in it that felt lacklustre, and you were left thinking that the stakes weren't as serious as implied. And instead of `hungering' to check out the next instalment, I felt merely `intrigued'.
The Demon of Paris changes the mood altogether. Things take a more darker tone here, and the haunting, eerie music and sound effects reflect this perfectly. Magrs deserves props for the direction he takes his story in. Not only will it have you more on the edge of your seat, but this second part utilises history and its players with terrific creativity. More so than The Relics of Time.
Case in point; Toulouse-Lautrec. Magrs captures the real-life struggles and inner turmoil of the famous artist so faithfully, and Mark Meadows gives a convincing performance. It's all reminiscent of Richard Curtis' TV masterpiece "Vincent & The Doctor" and Tony Curran's inspired performance as Van Gogh. The French accents are convincing, and Finty Williams (La Charlotte) and Rowena Cooper (La Concierge) make for an excellent supporting cast.
The Demon of Paris is also presented with plausibility, and paints a nice atmosphere of the late nineteenth century and the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey's travels. Magrs credibly stresses the gravity of their situation by having them travel from England to France and back again via boat and train. Along with the well-described setting of 1894 Paris, Magrs again feeds the listener enough for their imagination to visualise, which is nothing short of wonderful.
But the one thing I love perhaps most of all about this second part is the narrative. Where Tom Baker's Doctor was in charge of narration for part one of Demon Quest, the honours of storytelling this time fall to Susan Jameson as Mrs Wibbsey. Not only does this help keep Demon Quest fresh, it also allows Susan a chance to carry the story and provide more insight into her character, for those who may not have listened to Hornets' Nest yet.
Mrs Wibbsey is a strong character, and a rarity among companions. She doesn't really want to be travelling with the Doctor, and can't appreciate the experience as most companions have and would. She makes the best of it, though and proves herself worthy despite her reluctance. Her longing to go back to her own time, a temptation to see her parents in 1894, and her old-fashioned personality make Mrs Wibbsey a tremendous success. Susan Jameson makes the character her own; venting her thoughts/feelings and describing happenings, weaving both narratives together in intricate style. In fact, Jameson narrates the story's events just as good as Tom Baker did for part one.
Tom Baker's continual legendary performance as the Fourth Doctor, another welcome cameo from Richard Franklin as Captain Mike Yates (with a major appearance promised for part three) and a fab cover booklet featuring (again) old-Radio Times style cut-outs, and a handwritten love letter from La Charlotte (which has relevance to the audiobook), round things up delightfully. The Demon of Paris is superior to The Relics of Time and has now made me want to check out the third part of Doctor Who: Demon Quest right away. A dark, gripping chapter in a series that is steamrolling. Simply cannot be missed.