VINE VOICEon 12 February 2014
One thing about this Destiny of the Doctor series that I’m really thankful for, has been its ability to not only pay homage to all the wonderful history of Doctor Who, but also introduce newer fans to all the choicest eras from those 50 Years of the Time Lord’s illustrious history.
Having become an official fan during the days of David Tennant & Catherine Tate, I began exploring previous eras of Old Who, and I must say I’ve really enjoyed learning more & more of the roots of Doctor Who, particularly the interpretations of the character through all his various incarnations, and all those bright, shining companions that came along with him.
So after a strong start with the First Doctor’s Hunters of Earth, this second Destiny chapter focuses on (naturally) the Second Doctor himself, the late, great Patrick Troughton in the aptly-named Shadow of Death.
Here, the Doctor travels with (arguably) his best-loved companions, Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) & Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury). Forced into an emergency-landing, the TARDIS arrives on a remote world orbiting a pulsar, powerful enough to warp time itself. As the Time Lord & his friends investigate the science expedition, they all come under attack by a dark, silent & malevolent force…that kills merely by TOUCH.
Shadow of Death is written by Simon Guerrier, who has written a suitably tense and taut story. Like other tales in this Destiny series, Shadow of Death works brilliantly, both on its own and as part of the overall arc. In contrast to say Hunters of Earth, this is a nice change of environment and reflects the versatility & malleability of the Doctor’s many eras. Here, the Time Lord is in space, writing wrongs, and showing humans the time of their lives. It’s a different style of story too, much more action-filled than perhaps you’d expect in a Who story.
The plot is as basic as anything. There’s a mysterious menace to solve…and nothing else to it, really. The ‘Shadow’ offers a good amount of intrigue, but there’s no real juicy twists (apart from ONE really good surprise!) aside from that. But what gives Shadow of Death the advantage over Hunters of Earth is Guerrier’s writing. He describes the events with tremendous pace & diction, with the menace of the ‘Shadow’, the various time warps and dangers of the space station all deliciously stressed & underlined. This coupled with the typical quality of great music & sound-effects, make Shadow of Death a terrific, nerve-wracking adventure that will have you on the edge of your seat. The resolution is satisfying, too.
More plus points come with the choice of the narrator. Frazer Hines narrates Simon’s story with absolute excellence, and settles comfortably right back into his old role of Jamie. As someone who knew little of the character beforehand, I took an immediate like to Jamie; a Highlander of the 18th Century that’s brave, fierce, loyal, as well as friendly and outgoing that’s capable of understanding technology/situations which should be beyond him. The Scottish flavour of the character is another positive boon, and his practical nature/common sense is a nice contrast/mix with both the Second Doctor and the intelligent, logical & shielded Zoe. Knowing their inevitable fate/departure in 1969’s The War Games only makes my fondness for Jamie & Zoe grow all the more.
The Second Doctor himself is an incarnation that proved that the ‘regeneration’ aspect of the character would establish the longevity/malleability of the show. And true to the nature of these Destiny audiobooks, the essence of Patrick Troughton’s Doctor has been beautifully captured and presented for new fans. The man comes across as a bit of a bumbling, scruffy-looking fool, yet his more secretive nature (& ability to manipulate) shines through, as does the kind nature of the Time Lord that we’re familiar with. Frazier’s impersonation of Patrick Troughton is first-class! His mannerisms, his vocals…Frazier’s interpretation is spot-on, and Evie Dawnay’s Russian performance as Sophie only makes the audio mix even richer.
Shadow of Death is a delight, all-in-all. The only thing it’s lacking is a plot deep enough to match the production values and the narrative itself. As it stands, it’s only a step down from being truly perfect. And the major surprise near the end entices me to check out the next chapter. Even if you don’t check out the rest of this promising Destiny of the Doctor (which I recommend you DO stay with through to the end!), Shadow of Death also stands as an excellent stand-alone tale for the Second Doctor. Brilliant stuff!