Review: The Companion Chronicles 4×11 – Night’s Black Agents

Night's Black AgentsAs has become something of a tradition round here, I’m reviewing yet another of the Companion Chronicles out of sequence. But I have a good reason. You see this Companion Chronicle follows on directly from City of Spires and precedes Wreck of the Titan, so if I’m to avoid falling horribly behind again (and I already have a Lost Story, two more Companion Chronicles and Wreck of the Titan to get through, so I’m probably already there), I have to do it now.

Anyway, when last we left James Robert McCrimmon, he was heading off to a castle with the Sixth Doctor to find the TARDIS. And in this story, he finds it, together with a really ugly bloke and his pretty wife.

Brace yourself: it’s a dull one.

Jamie McCrimmon and his new friend the Sixth Doctor are lost on the moors of Scotland, where the legendary Kelpie roam…

They are offered shelter by the Reverend Merodach, the minister of the parish of Lammermoor, and are welcomed to his castle. But strange forces are at work within its walls, and Merodach is not what he appears.

Can the Doctor and Jamie prevent their powerful enemy from taking the TARDIS for himself?

Is it any good?
I have to confess, following this was actually quite hard, not just because the voice of ‘Merodach’ was so messed up by sound effects that working out his lines was far more difficult than it should have been. It’s not just because Frazer Hines is in a bit of a rush to deliver his lines and director Lisa Bowerman is in no hurry to make him go back and redo them (there’s even a point where Hines continues using the lighter tones he uses for a female character to deliver his own lines).

It’s simply a dull story that we’ve all heard before. It’s The Daemons. It’s any Who story where an alien pretends to be a regular person/the devil and who wants the TARDIS. It doesn’t help that the whole thing’s pacing is off either. We rush into the story. We get kelpies. Then we’re off to a completely different alien. Then we’re onto the kelpies again for some reason. Then we’re done. You feel in a constant state of “oh, is that the end? Oh, there’s more? Why?” And when the end does come, it feels like there should be more, like the only worthwhile bit of the play has just been squandered.

And the alien’s a bit rubbish, beyond a bit of hypnotism.

While Hines has managed to get back into the Jamie voice reasonably well, here he has to do a Sixth Doctor voice as well, and unfortunately, it’s just posh English, lacking the bombast and verve of Colin Baker. Hugh Ross is great, of course, but his vocal talents get smeared out by the production.

This feels hurried and rushed, not just in terms of production (yet again, the CD extras show them finishing recording early – never a good sign, since it’s just a touch too Ed “that’s perfect” Wood), but in scripting. A bit more time on both might have made this more appetising, but this is easily one to miss, even if you are following the Sixth Doctor/Jamie trilogy in the main series*.

Amazon CD: £7.19
Big Finish Download: £8.99
Big Finish CD: £7.99

Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon)
Hugh Ross (Merodach)

Writer: Marty Ross
Director: Lisa Bowerman

* There are half-hearted attempts to tie it into the main plot, but it’s not really very well done – an obvious afterthought.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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