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Nekromanteia (Doctor Who) Audio CD – Audiobook, 1 Feb 2003
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Top customer reviews
I have to say that of all the Big Finish adventures I have heard to date, this really is the weakest. I can't really summarise the plot as, to be honest, I just didn't get it. Five, Peri and Erimem are drawn to some planet where a transmitter in the shape of a skeleton is releasing energy that can destroy the Universe and the Company encountered by Tom Baker in the Sun Makers want it? Something like that. And there are some cannibal witches involved somehow. And an archaeologist. It's all very confused. And the tone is completely wrong. One of the companions faces the explicit and disturbing threat of sexual violence, not at all fitting in with what is, essentially, a children's show. The constant references to witches eating corpses was pretty disturbing too.
Overlaying the confusing story is one of the worst sound procuctions from BF. Too much of the time I just can't hear what the actors are saying over loud and annoying sound effects. The only actor I can hear clearly turns in one of the worst ever Who villain performances as a very OTT witch.
I couldn't hear much, and much of what I could hear I didn't understand. And most of what I could understand I didn't like. 1 star. And it really pains me to have to dish out such a low score. Thankfully there are much better Five/Peri/Erimem adventures out there.
"The Doctor, Peri and Erimem face the terrors of Talderun and the wrath of a corporate empire as they struggle to understand the hideous secret of the domain of the dead - a district known in legend as Nekromanteia."
"Nekromanteia", by Austen Atkinson, is one of those unpopular stories that fans are supposed to dislike. There aren't generally reasons given for this, but in listening to the play one can see where the critics are coming from.
"Nekromanteia" is a dark play that, thematically, is very much in keeping with the late Season 21 era of "Resurrection of the Daleks" and "The Caves of Androzani". There is violence, mutilation and death; terrible things happen to the companions; and the Doctor is constantly on the brink of losing control of the situation. Parts of "Nekromanteia" are genuinely scary, helped by the intimidating sound design and music.
However, the plot of "Nekromanteia" is muddled and the supporting characters are unsympathetic, with one or two shoddy performances mixed in. Gilly Cohen as the high priestess Jal Dor Kal has earned particular criticism for her screaming, cackling performance that sounds like a children's cartoon villain, and Glyn Owen's performance is forced as the "gruff" Commander Harlon. Alongside these dubious supporting performances, the three regulars are characterised well and their performances are brilliant, adding to "Nekromanteia"'s inconsistency and contrasts.
Given the horrors witnessed by Peri and Erimem suffer over the course of the play, one would have thought that both would leave the Doctor at the first opportunity afterwards, or at least be permanently traumatised. However, by the tone of the closing scene one strongly suspects that things will return to normal after the events of "Nekromanteia", leaving Atkinson's play rather insular in its own self-contained world of horror.
This is only the third story to feature Erimem, so she is still new to the ways of travelling with the Doctor, though she and Peri have already struck up a strong friendship. Erimem’s cat Andronak is also travelling with them, not altogether to the Doctor’s delight as Andronak keeps jumping on the Tardis console. Peri and Erimem find an interesting artefact in a market, and feel drawn to find out more about its origins. The Doctor agrees, but when they land fears he may have made a “grave mistake” – he seems to have landed them in a room full of corpses. Meanwhile, we have heard the death of a great space fleet sent by Chairman Wendle Marr under Commander Harlon, and the slaughter of the crews by cannibalistic sadistic witches – all very unpleasant.
There is great stuff hidden in this story, but it falls flat because of a few things that it’s hard for the listener to get past. Firstly, there is a great “elephant in the room” in this story, which everyone finds distasteful – the scene where Erimem is subject to sexual violence. I personally feel that this scene was completely irrelevant to either the plot or to Erimem’s character, and should have been left out of the final release. So, that’s got that one out of the way.
There is lots of good in the story; I like the character of Wendle Marr (who is very remiscent of Morgus in Caves of Androzani. Commander Harlon and Lt Cochrane are well portrayed, and the Pakhar in the market are very clever.
Where the story then fails to be a great story in my opinion is because of two other factors. One is the over-the-top rendition of the character of Jal Dor Kal by Gilly Cohen. I get that the character is the head Witch, head of a coven of horrible witches who perform blood sacrifices and worship the relic of the great god Shara. But the witchy-poo cackling and shrieking that the character employs just makes her sound silly, and annoying. Given that in the last few scenes with Jal Dor Kal she uses a much more normal voice and is clearly a perfectly intelligent character in her own right, I fail to see why the producer allowed the character to be voiced in this way.
The other issue that I have is that there an awful lot of extremely short scenes. The cutting from one scene to another (necessary, given that there are a lot of set pieces and characters to bring together in the story) is too quick and the scenes are not given time to develop. As a result, it sounds choppy.
I’ve listened to this story twice now, and I had forgotten much of it from the first time I heard it. Listening to it a second time I understand it much better, and I can see the very good story that lies behind it, once you can piece it together as an accomplished narrative. Putting aside the factors I’ve mentioned above which let it down, it is very good. Putting those annoying factors into the finished product unfortunately stop it from being a great story.