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The Doctor visits Hell... or maybe the USA?
on 23 April 2006
"The twenty-first century has just begun, and Malebolgia is enjoying its status as the newest state in America. After his successful involvement with Scotland's devolution, Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart has been invited over to Malebolgia to offer some of his experiences and expertise.
"There he encounters the charismatic Brigham Elisha Dashwood III, an evangelical statesman running for Governor who may not be quite as clean-cut and wholesome as he makes out. One of Dashwood's other roles in society is as patron of a new medical institute concentrating on curing the ills of the human mind. One of the patients there interests the Brigadier - someone who claims he travels through space and time in something called a TARDIS.
"Charley, however, has more than a few problems of her own. Amnesiac, she is working as a hostess at the local chapter of the Hell Fire Club, populated by local dignitaries who have summoned forth the demon Marchosias. And the leader of the Club? None other than Dashwood, who seems determined to achieve congressional power by the most malevolent means at his disposal..."
Alan W Lear and Gary Russell's Minuet in Hell is a long one. Although only four episodes in length, each episode clocks in at over 30 minutes and the first episode is nearly 45. It'll drag, or be poorly edited, you might think - but not so. Rather, Minuet in Hell has a tight script with some excellent lines, and universally enthusiastic and excellent performances from all involved, particularly McGann and a welcome return for Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.
The largely British supporting cast are called upon to perform their roles in American accents and, while some pull it off well, others sound a little too much like clichéd deep south rednecks, particularly Morgan Deare as Senator Waldo Pickering. The casting of Robert Jezek as Dashwood is also a little confusing, as it's hard to get the picture of a giant talking penguin out of your head when listening to his lines. None the less, he plays his part well.
The plot is enjoyable, kicking straight off with the amnesiac Doctor and equally incapacitated Charley waking up respectively in a loony bin and Dashwood's Hellfire Club, with no explanation as to how the two travellers got there. This mystery is gradually unravelled as the Doctor begins to find his feet and regain his identity, hindered somewhat by the British reporter Gideon Crane, who insists that it is he who is the Doctor. Charley, meanwhile, gets into a variety of scrapes of her own as she tries to locate her friend, and both have plenty to do.
An enjoyable play with high production values that ends the first "season" of Big Finish Eighth Doctor adventures with a bang!