There was once a Doctor Who writer, the name eludes this reviewer for now, that remarked (this is paraphrasing, obviously) that one could imagine the first eight Doctors sharing an Edwardian house comfortably together.
Of the eight, the Fifth Doctor would be one of the stand out incarnations to settle in rather nicely to that situation and so therefore, whenever there’s a story involving that particular regeneration and a boxed-in setting of explorer Nathaniel Whitlock in Suffolk in the year 1911, you know that you’re in for a solid story.
In fact, Moonflesh has many similarities to Davison’s television story Black Orchid. The charming setting, the incredibly well to-do family in a gorgeous home, the mix of guests ranging from pompous to back-stabbing and a mysterious object guarded by a native American known as Silver Crow. It’s like writer Mark Morris has watched this show before…
But where Black Orchid was a swift two-part romp that was over before it began, Moonflesh is given suitable time to breathe thanks to its four parts and director, Ken Bentley makes excellent use of both characters and settings. But rather than borrow from past indulgences from the original run of Doctor Who, the script and direction seem to take more from the Doctor Who Magazine comics, specifically the early Eighth Doctor era circa 1996 written by Alan Barnes. The isolation, the atmosphere and the supposedly friendly alien being that turns out to be nothing more than a double crossing ratbag – all is included. Long term fans from the wilderness years and before may well remember a story from the pages of DWM called Tooth and Claw; whilst the story and Moonflesh are different, the atmosphere is very similar indeed.
Moonflesh is a wonderful romp to begin the Fifth Doctor’s 2014 adventures. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and through that gap, it’s able to produce some unexpectedly grizzly and powerful scenes that are genuinely exciting and engaging to listen to. It may not be the deepest or most ambitious story ever created by Big Finish but it certainly warrants your time.
It’s available on CD or via download from Big Finish now.