Review: Doctor Who – The Dark Husband

The Dark Husband

I’m quite a fan of David Quantick. He’s written for just about every comedy programme going. He’s collaborated with Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris. He is, to put it bluntly, a talented man.

How, then, to react to the idea of a David Quantick comedy play, particularly one written for the seventh Doctor?

Is it going to be of the science fiction/Doctor Who milieu or is it going to be some random piece of comedy that takes the piss?Is it going to be of the terminally rubbish (but beloved by Big Finish) comedic season 24, or is it going to be of the darker season 25/26 style? Is Quantick going to know the characters and the back story, particularly of new companion Hex, played by Philip "Brookside/The Games/Naked calendars" Olivier? Is it, in short, going to be rubbish, or is it going to be worth listening to?

On balance, I’d say, if it weren’t for the slight hindrances of Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred, it would actually be all right.

Plot
"This whole wedding is like making a nuclear bomb with half the instructions missing!"

A week-long respite from a prolonged and bloody war, the Festival of the Twin Moons of Tuin makes Glastonbury look like a church fete… or so the brochure says. The Doctor and Ace are looking for rest and recreation. Hex is looking for the beer tent. But eternal enemies the ginger-haired Ri and the coot-bald Ir are plotting to turn their Festival truce to their own advantage. Only the Dark Husband might stop the celebrations turning to horror… but who is the Dark Husband? And what terror awaits him on his wedding night?

If anyone knows any just cause or impediment… speak now. The lives of billions depend on it.

Is it any good?
It’s variable. Essentially, we have a war between a bunch of hairy Brian Blessed impersonators and a bunch of bald Leslie Phillips impersonators. The Doctor wades in to try to stop it but finds out everything isn’t as it appears.

To a certain extent, this is played for laughs, as you’d expect, mostly based around the Doctor and the companions being fated to marry each other and their various reactions to that. As you might expect from that, the laughs are a little broad brush, although the dialogue’s at a level you don’t normally expect from a Big Finish play. 

But it’s surprisingly plot-driven all the same, using something that wouldn’t be out of place in seasons 25 and 26. The Doctor’s being manipulative and there aren’t any spoons in sight. Ooh. Yet it’s not quite as you’d expect. Genres have their own rules and this doesn’t feel like someone who’s a sci-fi writer doing comedy; it’s a comedy writer doing sci-fi. Sci-fi writers tend to make references to other sci-fi shows: Quantick makes references to Laurel and Hardy.

In all this plot are some characters moments, too. Rather than have the standard "Doctor and companions get separated then they all come together at the end" plot, the Doctor and pals are together for most of the play, so there’s a fair degree of interaction among all of them. The companions aren’t relegated to second fiddle, with Quantick giving all three equal time and chances to save the day. There are vague hints at the once-promised, long-forgotten Ace-Hex romance: something different! Thank God. And we do get some lines that suggest that Ace and Hex might be real characters, rather than just sci-fi characters, with Ace making ‘Scally’ references to tease Hex and Hex having a go at ‘gingers’ and generally just wanting to get rat-arsed.

All the same, it’s not exactly dynamite stuff and I think Quantick’s humour, despite being quite wordy, really needs an actor visibly saying the lines to work.

And by actors, I mean actors, not Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred. There’s nothing really extra that needs to be said about these two that hasn’t been said already in the last 20 years. While Philip Olivier’s fine, Aldred is auditioning for the Wooden Tops. And with McCoy, you can almost hear the mental process before each line slowly emerges from his mouth. "Oh, crikey. What’s this? I’ve not seen this line before, have I? Let me read it…. Hmmm. That’s interesting. How should I deliver that? Let me think… I know, let’s try this."

It’s a bit throwaway, in no way a classic, and seriously hampered by two of the three leads. But it’s a little different, a touch Douglas Adams at times, and relatively listenable. Not awful. Not brilliant. A bit disappointing, though.

How much does it cost?
Actual cost: £12.99 (downloads: £10.99)
Actual worth: £5.99

Cast
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor)
Sophie Aldred (Ace)
Philip Olivier (Hex)
Danny Webb (Ori)
Andy B Newb (Irit)
Benny Dawb (Tuin)
Katarina Olsson and Sean Connolly (The Bards)

Writer: David Quantick
Director: Nicholas Briggs

Available from Amazon.co.uk or the Big Finish web site

  • Electric Dragon

    Andy B Newb and Benny Dawb? Was Neil Toynay not available?

  • MediumRob

    Not really much point either, given Danny Webb’s name is on the cover.