Customer Review

3.0 out of 5 stars THE BROKEN CROWN is a diversion at best and at worst an annoying wasp., 12 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Doctor Who Serpent Crest 2: The Broken Crown (Audio CD)
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.

I'm bored.

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.
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