This is the fifth and final part of this story; and, while not an earth-shattering adventure full of revelations, this is a satisfying ending to the buildup of the previous episodes in the story.
The Doctor, Mike Yates and Mrs Wibbsey are together again as they face their tormentor - for the final time? Tom Baker, Richard Franklin and Susan Jameson are in top form yet again in their characters, and the storyline leaves the listener feeling quite satisfied about the outcome of the story, and how we got there. As is always the way with the Doctor, nothing is ever quite as it seems.
We are left with the definite impression that all is not totally quiet on Christmas Eve at Nest Cottage by the end of the story; and that's a good thing for us, because it means that hopefully there are more stories on the way. And long may they continue.
Four audiobooks. Four different time periods. Four different artefacts and mysteries to investigate. It's been an entertaining ride with the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) in Paul Magrs' Demon Quest. And now, the audio arc finally comes to a climax in Sepulchre.
Events took a major twist in the final moments of Starfall (part 4), where the Doctor's housekeeper Mrs Wibbsey was abducted by the Demon, a mysterious creature who has been assuming various guises throughout history, baiting the Time Lord with missing components to his TARDIS, and historical artefacts featuring his likeness.
But the question throughout has always been..."WHY?"
Why has the Demon gone to all this trouble to lure the Doctor? Why has he tried relentlessly to capture him? Just WHAT are his motives? And who IS he?! Rest assured, these questions are finally answered in Sepulchre. And the answers are most satisfactory indeed. The machinations of Demon Quest run deeper than listeners have been led to believe, which (again) speaks volumes of Magrs' ability to construct a story of this overall length and magnitude.
Sepulchre is certainly a different breed of chapter from other parts of Demon Quest. Obviously, previous instalments were executed in a much-more adventure-based format, so the final part had to be designed to tie up loose ends. But Sepulchre does provide more than just satisfying resolution. The revisiting of certain elements from Hornet's Nest is shocking and creative, and the dark music and tense sound effects will have you on the edge of the seat.
But I do have some issues with this final part. First, The Doctor and Mike Yates' quest to find Mrs Wibbsey is pretty much over right at the start, deflating Starfall's ending in no time at all. Second, it's great to hear Nigel Anthony back again (from The Relics of Time), though his voice doesn't quite seem to fit the Demon here as it did for Emperor Claudius. And for all the great background noises and dark, claustrophobic atmosphere and gripping writing, Sepulchre doesn't quite have the same psychological impact as Dan Abnett's The Forever Trap.
Even though Sepulchre doesn't feel as essential as it's been built up to be, I cannot get enough of Tom Baker's Doctor. It's been a real treat to hear his trademark voice as the Time Lord once again, and like any good Doctor Who audio featuring the Fourth Doctor, it's always worth hearing a story for Baker's voice alone. It's so majestic and awe-inspiring to listen to.
Kudos also to Susan Jameson, who I've really enjoyed as Mrs Wibbsey. The character has become one of my favourite companions due to her personality and how Magrs has established her in his audio series. In this final Demon Quest outing, Paul paints Wibbsey in another new light, as a tragic character who you can't help but feel sympathy for, given everything that's happened to her in both Demon Quest, and (more importantly) in Hornet's Nest. The events here really make you feel for the character like never before, which is most welcome indeed.
Finally, the narration. Richard Franklin is given the honours for the last hurrah. And this is something I've been longing for since part 3. Finally, Mike Yates has a meaningful purpose and is given an insight into his mind. His status as an old soldier, his knowledge of the Doctor's future regenerations, experiences with the Fourth Doctor, his more hands-on role and a touching mention to Sarah Jane Smith (RIP Elizabeth Sladen) make it great to hear Mike Yates right in the thick of it. Like previous narrators (Tom Baker, Susan Jameson, Samuel West & Trevor White), Franklin performs his role with flourish, balancing the narration of his events with expressing his feelings. It's a superb performance from Richard and deserves high marks.
Demon Quest has been tremendous to listen to overall. It's suffered a little from iffy pacing and inconsistent story quality, but like previous parts, I would recommend Sepulchre to all Doctor Who fans. It's a deeply enjoyable production and a fitting resolution to Paul Magrs' wonderful arc, with a comfortable set-up into the next series of audiobooks. Not absolutely essential, but still great stuff.
First released in 2010, this is the fifth part of a five part adventure for the Fourth Doctor released on audio. It is a single hour long episode on a single disc, with some well realised artwork on the inlay. Having recovered all the missing parts of the TARDIS, Mrs Wibbsey has been kidnapped by the Demon and The Doctor and Mike have to travel to the mysterious Sepulchre to rescue her and take part in the final showdown.
This has been a disappointing series, you could probably listen to episodes one and five and get the story without missing anything important (and more importantly missing the painfully bad fourth episode). Sadly this final episode continues to fall a little flat as all the various plot strands are brought together and resolved. The tale is largely told by Richard Franklin as Mike Yates, once again largely sidelining the Doctor. When Tom does put in an appearance, his voice sounds a little ragged, lacking in the richness we have come to expect. It’s a dull lifeless thing, tying up the loose ends but not really doing much. I hope the next season of stories (The Serpent Crest) picks up a bit. It’s a pity, when Paul Magrs is on form (The Boy That Time Forgot for instance) he scales some real peaks. But this series has been pretty poor and badly realised. Not even my nostalgia at hearing ‘my’ Doctor’s voice again can lift it. 3 stars for this final episode.
Fifth and final entry in the Doctor Who: Demon Quest series, a run of talking books that see Tom Baker return to the role of the Doctor.
Like the others, this one runs for seventy minutes and is one long episode complete on a single CD. The only breaks being the usual CD chapter ones. And minimal sleeve notes give a brief plot summary plus cast details and a mock up letter supposedly written by one character that provides some exposition.
The bulk of this episode is full cast audio drama, with the occasional bit of narration provided by Richard Franklin in his role as Captain Mike Yates.
This episode picks up right from where the last one left off, and the opening pre credits sequence does provide a lot of exposition for those who haven't heard the previous parts, which is enough to get them up to speed.
The story then takes the TARDIS right into the lair of the villain of this tale, and for the first third the exploration of the place tries to be creepy and menacing. And succeeds very well.
Once the villain is revealed a few very good twists and turns arrive as the nature of their scheme is revealed.
But what happens next tends to be rather exposition heavy and not necessarily anything we've not heard before.
It also ties into heavily to a lot of goings on in earlier episodes and thus the whole thing really does work better as one long story rather than five individual ones.
It does keep you on tenterhooks as regards the fate of one character though, and their characterisation is quite superb.
The final track ends on a cliffhanger. So is a third series on the way?
This series has been an enjoyable listen as a whole and has worked better than Hornets nest, the previous one. So hopefully a third run can get even better.
Not the best Doctor Who audio out there, but not bad.
on 21 December 2010
Like its predecessor, Hornets' Nest, the Demon Quest sequence (Relice of Time, 3/5; Demon of Paris, 3/5; Shard of Ice, 5/5; Starfall, 3/5; Sepulchre, 3/5) is a rummy old thing: beautifully packaged, with stunning cover artwork; gorgeous, immersive sound design; and a trump card in the return of Sir Tom Baker as the fourth Doctor (a feat even the estimable Big Finish hasn't yet wangled). Even the price - some used models were hovering around the three-guinea mark at the time of writing - is right. So what's not to like?
Well, it's like this... the plot, narrative, story-arc, call it what you will, is slender to the point of non-existence, and it makes the six-hour journey (12 if you pop Hornet's Nest on the mp3-player) somewhat unsatisfactory upon arrival at your ultimate destination.
Now, that's not to say it isn't fun getting there, because it is: Baker is in larky mode, the fourth Doctor no longer the implacable, alien odd-bod of old but an avuncular (lustier?) force of nature, a character mapped somewhat on to the actor's current public persona (they have, finally, become each other), and there is fine support from Susan Jameson as Mrs Wibbsey (a figure seemingly plucked from Baker's relentless imagination by author Paul Magrs) and Richard Franklin as Mike Yates (no, we don't know what Yates is doing here, either, but Franklin provides sterling support all the same).
Pleasingly, it's almost impossible to place within standard Who lore, and seems to exist in a little fun bubble of its own, where, perhaps, the fourth Doctor didn't fall to his doom from the Pharos Project radio telescope, but instead discovered the attractions of women (let's put it like that; cf, City of Death) and a spot of sherry, and bought a nice little cottage in Sussex where it's nearly-always Christmas. That world is wonderfully realised, and is a pleasure to visit, Magrs recasting Who as a freewheeling, time-travelling romp somewhere between the comic-strip adventures of the Seventies and Eighties and the Douglas Adams era, though without the insistent nudge-nudge `humour' of the latter. The author here has a reputation for good-natured shakings up of the show's established order (see "Verdigris", and anything featuring Iris Wildthyme), but he never quite goes over the top.
No, there's no problem with the set-up here, and the tone is perfect and consistent; it's just that too little happens... or rather, plenty happens, in many colourful times and places, but it doesn't amount to much. The quest structure supplies a sort of imperative, but crises seem to get resolved perhaps a bit too conveniently, even for a goose-chase of this sort. This might be missing the point, of course: it's in the journey, not the conclusion, that the real adventure lies (the Doctor would surely agree), and the medium is the message, or something. After all, we do get to revel for hours in Magrs' ripe language, and no one enjoys it more than the lead; Baker even makes the end credits sound fun. Audio imbibers won't lack for sheer sensation, distraction and delight on the commute; that has something of the show's original ambition about it, and on its own terms is refreshing.
It's perhaps for these reasons that episode three, Shard of Ice - a story about the telling of stories - is the most satisfactory entry, thrilling to the narrator's last utterance. And these tales do stand alone (sort of), so if you're plumping for one, plump there; you won't, of course: the packaging, if nothing else, makes all five irresistibly collectible, even in these straitened times.
Yarns, then, knitted up into a long, multi-coloured and eccentric trail... remind you of anyone? Grab your scarf and hat then, and come along; just don't say you weren't told ....