I imagine, if you’re a regular Big Finish actor, there is a range of reactions you experience when getting your latest script, depending on which of the various standard Big Finish categories it falls into. A lot of the time, you’re going to be wondering how you’re going to get all that jargon out. "Blimey, it’s a bit complicated. I don’t really understand a word of it. I must remember to be ever so serious."
Quite a lot of the time, you’re also going to be thinking, "Ooh, goody. This looks like fun. We’re going to have a laugh doing this, aren’t we?"
And then, just occasionally, you’ll get one through that not only makes you think, "Ooh goody, that’ll be fun," you’ll also be thinking. "Ah! I love the smell of ham in the morning."
Curses and tombs, revenge from beyond the grave – and Dick Turpin!
England, 1738. On the trail of a lost book, the Doctor and Charley arrive at the beautiful country estate of Sir Ralph and Lady Sybil. But all is far from idyllic. There’s a murderer on the loose, and the nearby woods are the haunt of the notorious highwayman Dick Turpin.
And that’s not all. Something else has journeyed here. Something that could destroy the very fabric of reality. The Doctor and Charley have just forty-eight hours to solve the mystery before the whole world succumbs to The Doomwood Curse.
Is it any good?
There’s a bit of a trend at Big Finish to get all "meta-textual". It’s not enough to actually have a bad play; you’ve got to point out it’s bad and that you only made it that way because you’re so clever and because it serves a plot point. There’s a whole slew of Sapphire and Steel plays that pretty much fall into this category and there are a few Doctor Who ones, too.
So here we have a slight send up of the gothic novel, with ridiculous coincidences, a gentrified Dick Turpin, long-lost sisters and family curses all doing their level best to equal the silliness of Doctor Who and the Pirates. And, of course, we have the Doctor spending all his time commenting on the silliness of it all.
All the same, this is a fun piece that doesn’t really test the patience of the listener as some of these meta-textuals pieces have done in the past. It clips along at a nice pace and bar a slightly silly opening in the library and a slightly disappointing denouement for Dick, it’s pretty enjoyable to listen to.
Just about everybody is hamming it up something chronic of course. And you can’t pass ham by Colin Baker’s nose without his joining in with the feast, and he’s clearly enjoying himself. India Fisher starts off forgetting she’s supposed to be acting, rather than narrating MasterChef, but picks up a bit, for indulging in one of the worst — but appropriate — West Country accents short of Gemma Arterton’s in Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
It’s all a bit throwaway, but it does highlight what a good pairing the Sixth Doctor and Charley already are, even if the Sixth Doctor is coming across as a bit of a thicky for not picking up on all of Charley’s clues to her real identity. More of these two, please, Big Finish.
Colin Baker (The Doctor)
India Fisher (Charlotte Pollard)
Nicky Henson (Dick Turpin)
Jonathan Firth (John)
Hayley Atwell (Eleanor)
Trevor Cooper (Sir Ralph)
Geraldine Newman (Lady Sybil)
Daisy Douglas (Susan)
Suzie Chard (Molly)