Review: Doctor Who – 120 – The Magic Mousetrap

The Magic MousetrapApologies for the delay in reviewing this one: I simply couldn’t face listening to the first of two Sylvester McCoy stories after having to sit through the Key 2 Time season.

In fact, the thought of listening to the new Eighth Doctor and Lucie season was so horrific I’ve decided to give those a complete miss, so sorry if you’ve been hoping for reviews of those – I doubt you have.

But, just for yous guys, I forced myself to get back on track. I steeled myself last week, gave The Magic Mousetrap a whirl – as well as the first episode of The Three Companions – and now I’m ready to report.

It’s not that bad actually, although it would have been so much better with practically any other Doctor/companion combination.

Plot
The Magic Mousetrap
Switzerland, 1926: the Doctor finds himself halfway up an Alpine mountainside, on his way to an exclusive sanatorium for the rich and famous run by the Viennese alienist Ludovic ‘Ludo’ Comfort. In between bouts of electric shock therapy, Ludo’s patients – including faded music hall turn Harry Randall, chess grandmaster Swapnil Khan and Lola Luna, darling of the Weimar cabaret scene – fill their time with endless rounds of Snap!, among other diversions.

But the Doctor soon suspects that someone’s playing an altogether more sinister game. Someone with a score to settle…

The Companion Chronicles: The Three Companions – Episode 1: Polly’s Story
The present day. Polly Wright, former companion of the Second Doctor, tracks down Sir Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart via the Internet. As they chat online, they realise that they have a shared experience – and one that began on a world far away.

Is it any good?
The first episode drifts a lot, but it settles down after that. It’s quite a clever bit of work – almost too clever – with the central conceits being a returning old enemy (no, no clues) and the Doctor having lost his memory, resulting in his becoming a pawn in his companions’ machinations, rather than vice versa.

It doesn’t make a lick of sense – I didn’t even realise it had ended, such is the denouement – but it just about makes time pass by relatively unhatefully. It’s also a touch creepy, but doesn’t quite hit the heights of creepy set by the original (no, still no clues). As you might guess from the title, it was also supposed to feature Agatha Christie, but The Unicorn and The Wasp put the kibosh on that.

The supporting cast is okay, but ham things up slightly, and the regulars are actually putting some effort in and doing their level best for once: Sophie Aldred does some very good voice work, but reverts to her usual self when doing Ace-proper, while Sylvester McCoy could be mistaken for an actor at times.

I’m still not sure I’d recommend it, but at least you won’t be ripping your face off by the end of the story.

As for the first episode of The Three Companions, which is going to span the next few Doctor Who releases, presumably in an effort to publicise The Companion Chronicles range, that’s actually quite interesting. First/Second Doctor companion Polly’s been reading Jo Grant’s blog entry, learned about the Brigadier and dropped him an email.

The rest of the piece is a two-hander between her and the Brig, reading their emails to each other. Apparently, they’re connected somehow through a planet Polly, Ben, Jamie and the Doctor once visited and we’re going to hear this exciting story in parts. Unfortunately, the Big Finish companion nobody cares about – Thomas Brewster – is malevolently coming along for the ride, and writing his own emails.

The stabs at second Doctor stories by Big Finish are usually painful, so let’s withhold judgement on the whole arc for now. But so far, it’s not bad, even if it is a great big bit of fan wank, with the Brig having to explain to Polly that Pat T regenerated into Jon P, etc. I just wish the “third companion” had been one we actually wanted to have included.

Price
Big Finish download: £12.99
Amazon CD: £14.99
Big Finish CD: £14.99

Cast
The Magic Mousetrap
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor)
Sophie Aldred (Ace)
Philip Olivier (Hex)
Paul Anthony-Barber (Ludovic Comfort)
Joan Walker (Lola Luna)
Nadim Sawalha (Swapnil Khan)
Nadine Lewington (Queenie Glasscock)
Andrew Fettes (Harry Randall)
Andrew Dickens (Herbert Randall)

Writer: Matthew Sweet
Director: Ken Bentley

The Three Companions
Anneke Wills (Polly)
Nicholas Courtney (The Brigadier)
John Pickard (Thomas Brewster)

Writer: Marc Platt