on 8 September 2012
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.
A talking book telling an all new Doctor Who story, which has never appeared before in any other form or medium.
It features the Eleventh Doctor, along with his companions Amy and Rory.
It's complete on a single cd, and runs for just under seventy minutes. [Approx]. It's basically one long episode, the only breaks in it being the usual cd chapter ones.
Minimal sleeve notes give nothing more than copyright information.
The story is read by Raquel Cassidy, who appeared in the tv episodes of the show entitled 'The Rebel Flesh/The Almost people.'
It begins with a pre credits sequence that tells of a couple who live in an insolated house, and how one has been rather spooked by something. The writing and reading in the scene is very effective and subtly creepy, but the incidental music does rather distract. Although the scene does have a very good ending.
Then once the story gets going, the TARDIS arrives. Having been forced to land after being thrown off course. They've landed in 1920's Hampshire, in the middle of the countryside. On a rainy night.
There's a crashed spaceship nearby.
Investigating matters leaves Amy and the Doctor separated from Rory. When they hear voices from the house, they go to it.
And then strange and creepy things begin to happen...
Raquel Cassidy has done a few of these now and she is pretty good at them, having a voice that is quite compelling to listen to. Her voices for the supporting characters plus Amy and Rory are pretty good, although her attempt at doing the Doctor's voice is a bit of an acquired taste.
There are moments when there's no sound design so you need to concentrate on the reading fully at these points. But once the story gets into the house it does get effectively creepy. And the sound design to go with this is very good and effective. It doesn't try to scare the listener, just leave you intent on finding what's going on and what will happen next. The writing does the same, so this is a compelling listen for the most part.
The resolution of the story is pretty clever, and slightly involved, but it's an interesting one because it means that you could listen to it again and get something else out of the story by doing so, because knowing what is going on will offer an interestingly different perspective.
These releases are never quite five star material. They are effective time passers for fans of the show in between episodes. But this is a decent and clever piece of writing brought well to life, so it's worth a listen.
on 19 April 2013
Thrown off course by a howling storm, the TARDIS lands in a bleak, desolate stretch of countryside. The Doctor deduces that it has arrived in Hampshire in the 1920s and, sniffing the air, he smells a distinct odour of sulphur - indicating that a spaceship has crashed in the area. While Rory goes to fetch an umbrella, Amy and the Doctor brave the rain to find the stricken craft. It is huge, shiny, silvery-blue - and completely empty. A set of footprints leads to a cosy-looking, old-fashioned cottage: but the house, too, is deserted. However, the Doctor and Amy can distinctly hear people talking - and one of the voices sounds like Rory's. How could he be in the cottage when he was last seen heading back to the TARDIS? Where are the residents of the empty house? And what has happened to the inhabitants of the spaceship? Raquel Cassidy reads this exclusive audio adventure featuring the Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory.