This is the second part in the five-part series. When we left the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey at the end of the first episode, they were back in Hexford - but not in the right time period. How have they ended up in 1861, and what are they going to do about getting back home? When they meet the local Reverend, they realise that his ward and the ward's tutor Mr Bewley may be people they've met before. But is there another danger waiting for the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey as well?
As the second of a five part series, this episode suffers slightly from setting further scenes - we're over the first exciting new part of episode one, and haven't really yet got to the nitty gritty that hopefully will build up in the later episodes. So there's a bit of a holding pattern going on in this story; that's not to say it's not enjoyable, because it is. The characters, and the actors playing those parts, are great - in particular the Reverend; and Tom Baker and Susan Jameson are, as usual, in top form.
The episode ends on a cliffhanger with the Doctor and Mrs W once again transported to who knows where and who knows when? (Mind you, I have my suspicions about where they are). What awaits them there? And how will they nullify the risk of the Skishtari egg, and get back home? Is Mike Yates still there waiting for them? Let's find out! Great stuff.
on 10 November 2011
Still loving this third series of adventures for Tom Baker's Doctor, which is best enjoyed with a glass of sherry in the gathering shadows of November twilight. After the camp sci-fi of Tsar Wars, the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey are dropped into the much more sober world of an English ghost story, MR James's Lost Hearts coming most to mind.
The Edwardian child with the paper face has lost something other than a heart, and he provides a perfect point through which Magrs does the marvellous Whoish trick of genre-splicing, drawing in quite E Nesbettian threads to produce something new but disconcertingly familiar. In a way, this is a story about the world of Edwardian fiction and its return in the BBC's cosy Sunday programming and Ghost Stories at Christmas. What was it about that world that became so very broadcastable, and irrevocably coloured the imaginations of young viewers? At the same time, how few Doctor Who stories were set in this world, pre-WWI (just Pyramids of Mars?), how few involve children?
And, creepy and atmospheric, this ends up being about a child's imagination, and its manipulation. Perhaps we miss some of the outrageousness of Tom Baker as Father Gregory, the high camp taking a back seat to the rich atmosphere of the story.
Released in 2011, this is the second part of a set of 5 interlinked stories featuring many people’s favourite doctor, the 4th incarnation as portrayed by Tom Baker. It is the third and final such series to be produced by the BBC before Tom finally agreed to work with Big Finish. It’s one episode, about an hour long on a single disc.
The Serpent Crest follows the Doctors quest to find an egg containing an embryonic world conquering monster inside. It was last seen at the end of Tsar Wars being sent away with Boolin and the young Tsar. The Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey find themselves in Hexford, 1861, and things soon get dark and weird as a child’s imagination starts to rule the day.
It’s an OK story and largely holds the attention, but I found it a bit lacking. You have to have heard the first release (Tsar Wars) to get what is going on. And it leaves everything open ended for the third release (A Lad In Time). It is a reasonable linking story but nothing much in it really stands out in the mind. It could have done with being a bit more individual.
Baker is however on good form as the Doctor, and seems to be enjoying being back in the saddle.
3 stars in total.
on 12 March 2012
You cannot criticise the generous creative quality of AUDIOGO's Fourth Doctor third series commission from Paul Magrs, DOCTOR WHO - SERPENT CREST: THE BROKEN CROWN; it is crisp as a newly minted banknote.
However, the magic is, like a well-worn overly handled coin, is tarnished by now.
With BIG FINISH's acquisition of the Fourth Doctor/Tom Baker, I do hope that AUDIOGO permanently rest this once promising concept, or commission another writer.
So, what has episode two of the five-part series, SERPENT CREST has to offer a listener that has previously been proffered? Well, not that much, really.
Well, that's harsh; there is an unnerving, persistent like an influenza driven runny nose, "creak" that is audible during the recording that is either squeaky chair, dodgy floorboard or tottering script-placed lectern. No, it's not an added sound effect (it can be clearly heard in different settings - exterior and interior). Why didn't someone hear it during the recording?
And now an advertising break on the BBC - "SERPENT CREST: THE BROKEN CROWN definitely not sponsored by WD40"
Irksome, THE BROKEN CROWN is driven by the overused conceit (see FEAR HER, NIGHT TERRORS, Cal from SILENCE IN THE LIBRARY and THE EMPTY CHILD) of a faulty child, possessed and threatening the cosseting adult around him, and the weariness of this concept is enhanced (in a negative fashion), as the child's point is view drives the narration for this story.
As with previous Magrs audio releases, the narration format is less rewarding, satisfying than the standard established by BIG FINISH over the last decade, yet the author persists like that person on the daily commute who has the imperceptible need to converse whilst you have your head down reading the newspaper; "Shut up", your internal monologue shouts. No more with the narration, Magrs. The t-shirt has been bought, worn and now it's worn.
More so, the narration's delivery (i.e. the acting) is stilted and drawn-out like a stutter attempting to recite the 1908 tongue-twister, "She sells seas shells on the sea shore" whilst reading the words from the famous Bob Dylan "cue cards" in different GMT time-zones. Was the actor, Guy Harvey, not given direction?
And the sound effects, whilst accurate in their representation were equally devoid of inclusion into the action/dialogue. At times, instead of the Doctor saying, for example; "Wibbsey I'm off outside into the garden through this window and I'll see you later!" and having the sash-window raised during the line, as you'd expect in a free-flowing drama. However, the editor has the Doctor say a line then waits to insert a sound effect that reinforces his line and then waits for him to continue talking. Its as if the studio-recording device only had a single track at times. Shame but it was disjointed and `work experience'.
I hear you cry, "There must be some redeeming features in order for me to part with £10.25 of my hard earned cash?" Yes, there are.
The performances of both Baker and (Susan) Jameson continue to engage, beguile and impress. With some relief, Jameson's Mrs Wibbsey has become less of a comic foil for the Fourth Doctor and more of substantive companion (in the mould of the television series) who can equally support ("...but what is it, Doctor?") and individually command a scene sans Time Lord. In Wibbsey, the DOCTOR WHO canon has a character (and actress) that could quite easily transfer to the NEW SERIES.
Baker is as eloquently carefree in his performance as the Fourth Doctor as he has ever been, regaling every scene that he appears in and embellishing with an aural wink in his voice that has endeared him to fans.
But does our Fourth Doctor really sing?
Whilst in 2010's THE BEAST BELOW, Terrence Hardiman was relegated to a mere `henchman', as Reverend Dobbs he personifies a seemingly distrusting curate with an undercurrent of menace, yet, as the story unfurls, the actor spins dexterously on a sixpence to deliver a performance of compassion and humanity. Superb.
And that's it, DOCTOR WHO - SERPENT CREST: THE BROKEN CROWN is a diversion at best and at worst a wasp that wheels annoyingly above a summer picnic spread dive bombing into the homemade lemonade. Like exterminating that insect with a rolled-up copy of the RADIO TIMES, the episode could have benefited from decisive and perfunctory action from the director and the sound editor.
Second in the latest series of audios from the bbc that Tom Baker as Doctor Who. As with the first in this batch it runs for one hour - give or take a few seconds - and is one long episode, the only breaks being the usual cd chapter ones.
There's a short reprise of what happened in part one right at the start [although you're probably better off listening to that than using this as a jumping on point] and minimal sleeve notes give the usual cast and copyright details and present a reproduction of an item that does turn out to have some bearing on the story.
This one is again full cast audio drama - although with a couple of bits of narration - and it picks up from where part one left off, with the Doctor and Mrs. Wibbsey finding themselves back in Hexford village where they came from. Albeit over a century too early.
People are going missing from the village. And the local Reverend has a young ward called Andrew. Who wears a paper mask to hide his face. His tutor is someone whom Mrs. Wibbsey recognises.
And local children have found something strange and wonderful in the bushes.
What is the secret of the boy in the paper mask?
This would probably benefit from being a two parter because it does take a while to get going and it could probably do with a cliffhanger in the middle to heighten the drama. Because whilst it does create the atmosphere and people of a quiet 19th century village rather well, there's little sense of menace or drama in the first half hour. All the cast are pretty good though and do have their moments.
Things do pick up come the second half when revelation and exposition aplenty reveals what's going on. But this does turn out to be just a chapter in the bigger story, rather than anything that stands on it's own.
It uses the audio medium well, with a few scenes that really look good in the imagination, and it ends on a cliffhanger which leads straight into episode three.
Thus it's not the greatest Doctor Who audio ever, but it's still a decent enough listen if you stick with it.