This is the 185th story in the Main Range series by Big Finish, first released in 2014. Written by Mark Morris, this story features the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison), travelling with Nyssa (Sarah Sutton). This is the first in a trilogy of stories featuring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa, which continues in Tomb Ship and concludes in Masquerade.
The Tardis has landed in the countryside, in what the Doctor is convinced is Suffolk, in the early twentieth century. Only there aren’t normally lions in the Suffolk countryside, so the Doctor and Nyssa find themselves beating a somewhat hasty retreat, and take refuge in a country house where the owner, Nathaniel Whitlock, hosts hunting parties. The current visitors are an industrialist and his son, and a young woman; and Nathaniel’s daughter Phoebe and his companion Silver Crow, a Sioux Indian, make up the rest of the household.
The Doctor and Nyssa soon find themselves caught up in a story which makes them question the nature of the ‘real’ world, and what can be found in other landscapes which can be experienced, and the house party, in a neat little ‘base under siege’ variation, find that they are all in mortal danger. But from what, they’re not quite sure.
I thought this story started off really well. The setting was good, the characters well written, and absolutely well performed. The first two episodes set up a good piece of what could have been an intriguing story, and there was a nice balance of wit amongst the unfolding danger and impending terror. But the third and fourth episodes let it down badly, I thought. The direction of the narrative across the third and fourth episodes meandered, with an awful lot of telling the audience what was going on, and a great suspension of belief required in the eventual identification and resolution of the threat. It sadly dwindled into a story that seemed like it needed the second half to be completely re-written to make it more credible, and more interesting, let alone entertaining. Helped along by the excellent cast and sound production, but the second half of the plot did leave me thinking that it was a story I wouldn’t bother to listen to again for a long while.
Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton are in top form in this story, and they are helped along by a great guest cast, including Tim Bentinck as Whitlock, Rosanna Miles as his daughter Phoebe, the ever versatile John Banks as Silver Crow, Francesca Hunt as Hannah Bartholomew, Hugh Fraser as Edwin Tremayne and Geoffrey Breton as Hector Tremayne. The first cd concluces with a short music extra, and there are some interesting interviews with the cast and production team at the end of the second disc.
on 7 October 2015
The Fifth Doctor and Nyssa land in 1911's Suffolk, specifically within a private hunting ground inhabited by the likes of lions, gorillas and even elephants. Upon meeting the uppercrust owner Sir Wintlock and his associates, they stumble into strange goings on concerning a Native American artefact known as 'the Moonflesh'...
Having heard the play being slated by a number of BF reviewers, I approached with much apprehension, nudged on only by Mark Morris' name and the premise. Upon listening to it though, I honestly can't agree with the complaints of it being dull, idiotic and incompetent. Unremarkable and familiar yes, but 'Moonflesh' is no 'Black Orchid' when it comes to dead weight Who historicals. As expected from Big Finish, one of the story's highlights is the cast: Davison and Sutton are solid as ever, and we get to see a savvier, more curious Fifth compared to the usually out of his depth bumbler that he can be portrayed as. Hugh Fraser gets to be all bluster and what-ho-ing as a British noblemen and he just runs with it, while Tim Bentinck is reserved and wise as the Native American Silver Crow, there to help explain and deal with the mysterious Moonflesh. Also expected is strong work from BF's techies, creating the sounds of the assorted wildlife, the English countryside and odd dreamscapes, while underscoring with a rather melodic, sometimes mystical, score that definitely adds an extra layer. Some have complained that the sound is muddled and convoluted, but I never had an issue in understanding where the characters were or what they were doing.
But past that, how is Morris' script? Again, it is well worn Who historical territory, and it's hardly anything daring, innovative or challenging: we get stuffy toffs, mystical savages, ethereal alien fugitives and a strange artefact of unnatural powers. However, the script is fully aware of this, and has enough of a sense of humour about it to get by, weaving in elements of early 20th century culture and attitudes to get a few fun lines out of the differing aristocrats, especially in ageism. However, it does get some extra brownie points in the way it mixes in Native American, Lakotan in fact, mythology and stories with Silver Crow, which is a culture which is almost never seen tackled in Who, and combined with Bentinck's engaging voice, just spices up the proceedings. Yes, sometimes the dialogue is a little too wordy in order to explain what our characters are seeing, and its whole 'rights of the animals' angle is window dressing at best, touched on maybe once or twice, but it never wrecked my audio experience.
Honestly, I was surprised how much I ended up enjoying the play. Briskly paced, a few good jokes and with enough set pieces to get by, 'Moonflesh' is a fun, if unremarkable, distraction and not worthy of the ire it has attracted.
A new Doctor Who audio story. Featuring Peter Davison as the Doctor, and Sarah Sutton as his companion Nyssa.
This is the start of a new trilogy of adventures for the pair. Although this story is entirely self contained and doesn't tie into anything else. So it's one that casual listeners will be able to get into easily.
It runs for four episodes, spread over two cd's. The episodes run from twenty five to twenty eight minutes in length[approx.].
It sees the TARDIS land in the middle of the English countryside. Only to find big game animals roaming around. This is because they're on a private estate in 1911, owned by a famous explorer. Who has brought a collection of people together for a weekend of shooting.
Whitlock's retainer is an American Indian. Who looks after a mystic mineral. Which is reputed to have the power to call down spirits from another realm.
The actions of one of the guests reveals that the Moonflesh does have special abilities.
And then the hunt is on...
The length of the episodes in this is just right, because it does make it feel like something that could just about have been done on tv back in the 1980's. Thus it does fit so very well into the Fifth Doctor's era.
This is helped by an excellent collection of guest actors, all of whom play characters that are very much in keeping with the time from which they come. And all of them always manage to pitch their performances just right, never slipping into parody.
The attitudes of the characters is also in keeping with the year in which the story is set, which does allow for some good character interaction in regards to how Nyssa reacts to certain things.
You could expect this to be a base under siege style story, with the estate quickly under alien attack and the characters having to fight for their lives. But it does things rather differently to that. Making it instead a story which has the sense to keep a lot unrevealed at first and the revelations coming right to the end.
It's not a classic piece of work. But it's a good quality story and a very professional and well performed production. So it's well worth a listen.
There's eight minutes [approx.] of music from the story on the last two tracks of the first cd.
A trailer for the next release in the range on the track after the end of part four on disc two.
And fifteen minutes [approx.] worth of interviews with cast and crew on the tracks after that.
on 12 September 2015
The Doctor and Nyssa land in Suffolk 1911. Upon arrival they a hear the call of several big game animals and decide to investigate. They later learn that the animal have been gathered on the estate of Nathaniel Whitlock who has organised a hunting event for a group of wealthy patrons, one of which is hiding a secret. On his travels Whitlock had gathered some unusual meteorites the locals called Moonflesh which has some unusual properties.
The directing is poor as at times of action sometimes all you hear is animal noises, shouting and gunfire, leaving you rather confused. The soundtrack is highly polished and sounds great, but they do over do it with the sound effects. In the first episode there is a scene where they eat dinner and all you can hear is constant scraping of cutlery on plates as if they are simply cutting food up and moving it around.
The acting is theatrical or to use non-actor parlance over the top and worst of all it's full of over describing such as "Look, the red mist is going back into her body!" It's set in Suffolk in 1911 yet it sounds like they are on safari, so why not just make them on be on Safari? It's also heavily padded.
To get straight to the point 'Moonflesh' is generically written and to some people that's a crime and to others it equates to being a dull, average story. It’s packed full of tropes with pompous arrogant upper classes and the tribesman butler is badly acted, written and trite - cf. 'Ghostlight' and 'Black Orchid'. The dialogue of the aliens is stilted. However, all this being said I didn't absolutely hate it. I found it distinctly average and could easily listen to it again, although I won’t be in any hurry to do so.