THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE
BIG FINISH AUDIO
PARTS" AND "THE
BIG FINISH CD#44
RELEASED IN MAY 2003.
disease... Aliens, in
breach of galactic
Nyssa, under arrest!
Another situation of
dire peril is unfolding
for the Doctor and
However, what if it is
not clear who is
right and who is
wrong? Who is ugly
and who is beautiful?
Where does the story
begin, and where does
it end? Sometimes, it
is all a matter of
After stories like “The Mutant Phase”, “Primeval”, and the incomparable “Spare Parts”, the next fifth Doctor / Nyssa story certainly had a lot to live up to. And so with “Creatures of Beauty” Nicholas Briggs made the bold - and perhaps even brilliant - decision to tell us a Doctor Who story in a whole new way.
“Creatures of Beauty” is Doctor Who inside-out - literally. For a story based on the premise that the audience knows that “… the Doctor is always the cleverest person in any given situation and that he will, by and large, work everything out…” these four chronologically-muddled episodes are completely full of surprises.
At heart, “Creatures of Beauty” appears to be an exploration of what this forty-year old phenomenon has been all about – Briggs even challenges convention by having the unspoken questions asked out loud, like “why can’t we just stay in the TARDIS while it repairs itself,” etc. This would be interesting enough in itself, but “Creatures of Beauty” goes one step further away from convention and does not even tell the story chronologically. It does not even tell it through flashbacks. Instead, the four cliffhanger-less episodes are told in an apparently random order, I am sure prompting many people like myself (who do not read the CD booklets until after they have listened to the story) to check that they have put the
right disc in the CD player!
Consequently I had to listen to this play twice to fully understand it, but I think that I have got it now. Incidentally, this is my only real criticism of “Creatures of Beauty” – in my view, one should be able to listen to a story just once and be able to follow it without too much confusion. After just one listen though, whilst it is easy enough to get the gist of the plot, to really put it all together properly "Creatures of Beauty" does need at least one more playback. Normally, I would condemn a story for this, but in his author’s notes Briggs does make it explicitly clear that this is a story aimed specifically at those who are willing to listen to the whole thing more than once in order to understand the “how” and the “why” , rather than just the usual “what.”
In a nutshell, “Creatures of Beauty” is about a planet - Veln – which has suffered a massive ecological disaster due to the accidental actions of another race, the Koteem. As a result of this, most of the Veln are left disfigured and dying, the victims of the resulting genetic disease. The few who do not suffer from this affliction are referred to as ‘beauties.’ The plot itself is incredibly simple, but then again it has to be. The Doctor and Nyssa show up; split up; Nyssa is arrested; the Doctor is interrogated; they meet up; compare notes; figure out what is going on; and then they bugger off again.
Somehow though, it all works. With a little bit of concentration it is possible to follow the haphazard events and discern that the Koteem are not the villainous monsters that they seemed in Part One (it is what is inside that counts, see), that Lady Forleon is not what she originally appeared to be, and that there may be more to this ‘ecological disaster’ than meets the eye…
… and maybe, just maybe, the Doctor is not the cleverest person in this
situation and that this time he will not work everything out.
Perhaps he will make things much worse…
A truly inspired piece of audio drama.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
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