The Shadow of the Scourge (Doctor Who) Audio CD – Audiobook, 30 Oct 2000
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Paul Cornell wrote the few decent stories in the virgin range, and so its good to see him here writing this story. This i feel has to be one of the most intense and best directed of all the big finish audios. And the scourge are a very scary monster, even if you only hear them by voice. And of course Sylvester Mccoy gives another polished performance as the doctor, not being sad and dreary as in the bulk of new adventures novels. Sophie Aldred and Lisa Bowermann seem to get on very well together and the audio is great. A lot of nasty and emotional moments infused into a story that is genuinely creepy.
So, an excellent play that sustains menace from beginning to end...
The Tardis has travelled to the Pinehill Crest Hotel in Kent, where the Doctor seems to think that something of great import is about to happen; what, he’s not willing to share with his companions. But the fact that there are three different conferences going on at the hotel is of significance to whatever’s about to happen, so the three each set off to investigate. Soon, all three of the Tardis team find themselves in rather desperate straits; this time, even the Doctor may have outwitted himself.
I liked this story; Paul Cornell has written a story that has remained true to the three main Tardis characters, and has added a great atmosphere and environment in which to tell this tale which is, ultimately, one of very human proportions, for all its global epic feel. The Scourge are a great creation, and I’d love to see more stories with them in. A great support cast, with the three mainstays, and others including Holly King, Caroline Burns-Cook, Lennox Greaves, Michael Piccarilli, Nigel Fairs and Peter Trapani really make this a great audio experience, and one which I would happily listen to again.
The Doctor, Bernice and Ace (dressed in Leela’s clothes complete with knife as a fancy dress costume) arrive at a hotel in Kent where three conventions are happening simultaneously. It’s not long before multi-dimensional beings, known as the Scourge; turn up with an eye to taking over the planet, the bodies of its inhabitants and using them as a food source. The Doctor has a Scourge shadowing his soul as insurance, having apparently sold out the human race, so who will save the day?
The Scourge are emotional parasites who exist in a hellish dimension where people are eternally tortured without being allowed to die so that the Scourge can feed off their pain, despair, depression and horror. They have the ability to hypnotise and resemble Black Mantises. They apparently made contact with the Doctor while he dreamed on the Astral plane.
This is the best Big Finish performance I have heard from Sylvester yet. Frankly some of his others have been a bit lacking at times. Like Tom, I get the impression that McCoy would rather be acting on screen and being more active. Although, I don’t think he always been given particularly good Big Finish scripts. The highlight of his acting here is the cliff hanger to episode two.
At times there is a tongue in cheek element that is genuinely amusing at times. However, Bernice just seems to dish out smart arse remarks and comes off as rather glib. The biggest problem I have with this production is that most of the characters aren’t fleshed out particularly well. It’s somewhat overcrowded and this after Paul Cornell was asked to remove the Police man character that was in an earlier draft because the character was deemed superfluous. I don’t think there is really room for two companions in all this with Bernice being removed from the action by being taken into the Doctor’s mind in the third episode for a discussion which is nothing more than padding. The dialogue does resort to techno babble and can be clunky at times. Towards the end it even gets quite mawkish as the characters try to combat self-doubt.
Overall, despite at times sloppy writing and poor characters, the acting is mostly good with an interesting narrative, good production values and the Scourge are a great idea. All very enjoyable.
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