"...relentless in pace, thrilling in parts, intriguing throughout...",
This review is from: Doctor Who: Shadow of Death (Destiny of the Doctor 2) (Audio CD)
With the disappointment of "chapter one" of DOCTOR WHO: DESTINY OF THE DOCTOR - HUNTERS OF EARTH ("DOCTOR WHO audiobook emeritus") now a distant memory (ask me what the plot was about and I would need multiple choice answers to blindly pick from), the second release from the partnership of AUDIOGO and BIG FINISH has nothing to achieve or attain other than not inducing the effects of a Delta Wave Augmenter (see KINDA, 1982).
And it achieves it; a marked improvement on its predecessor (HUNTERS OF EARTH).
Simon Guerrier's SHADOW OF DEATH sees the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe materialising - a slightly bumpy landing due to recent upgrades implemented by its hapless Pilot using a string and stationary paperclip - on a rogue planet orbiting a pulsar (a dying star-sun) that is exerting a time differential upon it in varying degrees of acceleration. In other words, the planet and its inhabitants are affected by fluctuating time zones. Behind one bulkhead door the time is two years ahead of standard, and behind another portal it could four years in the future.
Read-performed by Frazer "Jamie McCrimmon" Hines and, as Sophie Popolovic, Evie Dawnay, SHADOW OF DEATH has been expertly crafted and toned as `pure Troughton era'; the Doctor stumbling into a crisis with a base under siege from an unseen force, and with a script that is (lovingly) littered with "...isms" unique this Doctor (an occasional cough; a calming humility; an iconic catchphrase of "..giddy aunt..."; recalling singular events from past and future episodes, such as HADS, Jamie's traversing the surface of Earth's Moon, and Psychic Paper. It's almost as if Guerrier had a bulleted checklist of elements to include, and, whilst under another writer this would have been overly gratuitous, here it is appropriate, subtle and clever.
At its very DNA, the essence of SHADOW OF DEATH is cemented in 1968, and this reinforced by the re-working of Ron Grainer/Delia Derbyshire iconic main music theme, nothing is diluted. The Doctor's character is pin-pint accurate and is, very surprisingly, realised gloriously by Hines that seems to be "an appreciative eulogy of his acting mentor, Patrick Troughton". Truly, his performance is as precise as draughtsman's technical drawing of a complicated machine; sharp, linear and a blueprint for future audiobooks.
The Doctor: "...size isn't everything, Zoe."
Naturally, Hines' interpretation of his `own' character, Jamie, is dutifully charming whilst Zoe Heriot is sweetly underplayed.
As an adventure, SHADOW OF DEATH is relentless in pace, thrilling in parts, intriguing throughout (NEW SERIES fans may be thrown of the scent by its title, perhaps hoping that Moffat's Vashta Nerada will make a swarming appearance - or perhaps, they will...) with a denouement that is both rewarding and intelligent.
Additionally, under the guidance of John Ainsworth, Simon Hunt's post-production is worthy of credit; restrained, founded in truth (rather than `comic' novelty) and, like a gilt-edged frame embracing an oil-painted masterpiece, vaunts both Hines' reading and Guerrier's script. Ominously, his incidental music is Talpidae-like, a low-level rumbling that will unknowingly creep beneath your skin.
And with a visionary appearance by... oh, that would spoil your enjoyment, DOCTOR WHO - DESTINY OF THE DOCTOR: SHADOW OF DEATH is an accomplished release without the saccharin that plagued its predecessor (and broadcast anniversary stories).