There is a dilemma that hangs over another DOCTOR WH NEW SERIES audio release read by Raquel Cassidy (appeared in SERIES 5's double-episode, THE REBEL FISH/THE ALMOST PEOPLE as Miranda Cleaves). Such is the tone & timbre of her voice that she either (1) seductively draws you into the story, remorselessly gripping you around the throat or (2) so soporiferous that not matter how the story is intriguing that she sends you into a gentle doze (and, sometimes, deep sleep that only television coverage of golf can only emulate).
It's a good trick if you can do it.
So, did I stay awake during her reading of Simon Guerrier's AUDIOGO audio exclusive, DOCTOR WHO - THE EMPTY HOUSE?
Well, it was touch and go. The occasional drift into weariness but nothing too deep.
Without question, Cassidy's reading & performance is stunningly accurate as she skips effortlessly from aged & alien Time Lord with a penchant for circle logic and self-doubt, to a flame-haired Scot and to her hapless Spouse.
However, the potential problem with THE EMPTY HOUSE that is reflected in her reading is that Guerrier's script seems to be off kilter from that the NEW SERIES, specifically relating to the personalities of the TARDIS crew. They just feel odd, especially now the on-screen characters are `two years older'. The Doctor is too precocious, overly sharp and surprisingly patronising, whilst Rory demonstrates the intelligence of an eager tadpole swimming aimlessly around a garden pond (sic) unaware that heron has identified it as an aperitif, and Amy seems to be a "DOCTOR WHO companion-by-numbers" manifestation.
Disappointing, really. But this cannot be levelled at the plotline. It's linear with a hint of time paradox. Not too much but just enough.
With it heritage or DNA in ITV's drama series, SAPPHIRE AND STEEL or BIG FINISH's DOCTOR WHO - CHIMES OF MIDNIGHT (from Paul McGann's first season of audioplays), THE EMPTY HOUSE is thoroughly engaging.
What is happening within the metre-thick wind-battered walls of a Hampshire cottage in 1927? Where are the alien owners, Grugue, of an abandoned spacecraft (powered by a Sulphur-smelling `Egg Drive')? In returning to a temperamental TARDIS, how has Rory been affected by its `Phase Mix-Match'? And are the yellow oilskin overcoat and the brown duffle coat worn by the Ponds originally worn by Sarah-Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan from the CLASSIC SERIES?
The revelation (and resolution of the story) is wholly plausible (theoretically, anyway), and satisfies the, sometimes, pedestrian action (a contradiction in terms).
The additional sound effect treatment is subtle in its craftsmanship (by Simon Hunt), whether creating an accurate persistence within the lashing rain, or woodworm larvae riddled floorboard planking of the cottage, or technological hum of the Grugue spacecraft.
Overall, DOCTOR WHO - THE EMPTY HOUSE is entertaining, earnest and inoffensive. Nothing special but it could have been if Matt Smith or Arthur Darvill had read/performed the release.