The town of Stockbridge has some strange goings on. A lot in fact. So much so that it had to step out of the pages of Doctor Who Magazine and hop into the audio world of Big Finish â€“ once again – with this months new, somewhat comedic, Peter Davison release, Castle of Fear.
The Doctor and Nyssa decided to go on a bit of a holiday into the past of Stockbridge, 1899 to be precise. However, no holiday is complete in the Doctor Who universe without a bit of a mystery to solve. In this case, how could the towns folk of 1899 Stockbridge have knowledge of who the Doctor is and that he has a â€œmagic boxâ€?
To solve the mystery the two time travelers must go ever further back in time to the year 1199. Stockbridge is getting some show time here isnâ€™t it folks?
Once there, they get mixed up with a couple of rather over the top characters who are all interested in the same thing: money, power and a title.
Starting off with Joe Thomas, playing Hubert, Earl of Mummerset. At first his characterization and accent make you wonder why he was cast. Donâ€™t get me wrong, heâ€™s not doing a bad job, just not what I am used to in a story by Big Finish. He seems like a parody more than a comical character. As the story progresses this characters ways seems to make more sense to the story and casting issues start to dissipate.
Moving on, weâ€™ve got John Sessions, playing a rather obvious caricature of a French man, named Roland of Brittany. It is about this time that you feel like you are watching a Monty Python story, which if you like that sort of thing then you should feel at home.
The Monty Python echoes, even commented on by the cast and crew in the CD Extras, donâ€™t stop there. With such characters as Maud the Withered, Smithy, Yavuz and just about every crowd scene in the piece feeling like John Cleese and co wrote the story themselves.
They didnâ€™t of course, that task went to Big Finish alumni, Alan Barnes. Which is probably this stories saving grace. In the past there have been a few comical in theme stories that have worked very well, but on the whole there was always a sense of great danger looming overhead. Here we still have some danger but it never feels that it is as troublesome as it should be. This could be a recipe for disaster, however with Alan Barnes at the helm, he somehow finds a way for the story to still work on both level even though the humor seems to be a bit more top heavy.
The key is that Barnes knows these characters. He knows them so well that he can make a story that seems a bit left field work out where someone else might have fumbled the main goal of the piece.
Adding to that we have Peter Davison who must be totally enjoying the Python connection as well as the fact that his Doctor is allowed to have some fun and get into the humor. Something you may well know, was not allowed during his TV outing.
We also have Sarah Sutton, pretty much taking charge and running the story for a good chunk of the narrative. A bit out of character from the TV persona she had, or possibly, not so much out of character, but an aspect that the TV series never touched on properly. It works very well the Doctor and companion team, shame they never saw the potential back in the 1980â€™s.
One of the really fan happy moments of the story is the return of an enigmatic alien race from the shows history. But telling you who it is would be a bit unfair to the listeners, so Iâ€™ll leave that out. I will say that after years of waiting and hoping to see this alien race that they werenâ€™t used as I had expected, but then I am not sure I can say what I did expect; after all, we know very little about them.
One thing that struck me is that they were sort of used in a similar fashion to another alien race in Doctor Who, what with their experiments and so on in this adventure, which is very interesting when you know what I am talking about. These surprise elements do make it hard to write a preview about them donâ€™t they?
With that I will leave you to pick up your copy so you can get lost in the wacky world that is painted over this two CD release.
One thing if for sure, if this is an example of what is to come in the next two Stockbridge installments of this trilogy, then Stockbridge â€œTis a silly place.â€
Castle of Fear is available on CD or paid download from www.bigfinish.com.