THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE BIG
"RETURN TO THE WEB
BIG FINISH CD#107
RELEASED IN APRIL
Thomas Brewster is
haunted by the ghost
of his drowned
mother. But she is not
the only apparition
to disturb his
dreams. Every few
years, he is visited by
a mysterious blue
assistant, the young
Scots scientist Robert
McIntosh, the Doctor
struggles to unravel
the twisted knot of
which bind the TARDIS
to Thomas Brewster.
Meanwhile, lost in the
stews of Victorian
London, Nyssa must
face a host of
gathering in the fog.
The Haunting of Thomas Brewster
“The Haunting of Thomas Brewster” by Jonathan Morris is quite easily Big Finish’s most remarkable offering of the year to date. Creepy and atmospheric, Morris’ Dickensian tale successfully fuses several very different types of Doctor Who story together to form one enchanting and thoroughly gripping four-parter.
At first, this story put me very much in mind of the relatively recent Doctor Who and Torchwood television episodes “Love & Monsters” and “Random Shoes”, in that the story is told (at least initially) from the perspective of Thomas Brewster, the workhouse urchin of the title. Brewster was orphaned at a very young age when his mother took her own life, but ever since he has been haunted by her vaporous presence.
John Pickard (2.4 Children, Hollyoaks) is so very good as Brewster. Under more conventional circumstances, a 30 year-old man playing a Victorian scallywag might have raised an eyebrow or two, but as he is aligned with a 57 year-old playing a 900 year-old and a 46 year-old playing a teenage girl, I think Big Finish just about get away with it. The performance is simply sublime, Pickard finding just the right balance between cliché and credibility. Brewster may well be an ‘Artful Dodger’ like character (he keeps nicking the TARDIS!), but arguably he is a damn sight more relatable.
Leslie Ash is also impressive as the late Mother Brewster. I think, particularly as I was such
a big fan of Men Behaving Badly and I have not really seen her in much else, I went into this play with certain preconceptions about Ash – preconceptions that she instantly dispelled
with her really quiet unsettling performance. As odd as it sounds, it does not sound like her.
Another thing I love about this script is how it has the Doctor stranded on Earth for a whole year. It reminded me quite a bit of what Craig Hinton did with the fifth Doctor in the old Virgin novel, “The Crystal Bucephalus”, though here the Time Lord does not set up a restaurant or even grow a ponytail. Instead, he inveigles himself into the academic scene and grows a beard, humorously mirroring what Peter Davison actually looks like these days. What I think works the best about this branch of the story though is that it sees the Doctor acquire a companion who is not a companion, as it were. Christian Coulson (“The Bride of Peladon”) plays the Doctor’s assistant – and I literally mean assistant - Robert McIntosh; an assistant who is not let into the Doctor’s magical world. Robert never asks about the strange Police Box in the corner of the Doctor’s stud and, until Nyssa shows up, he never even suspects
that his paymaster might be an alien time traveller. This really allows Morris to break some new ground, which after getting on for forty-five years is something of a triumph in itself.
I think it is also appropriate to highlight the hefty contributions made by director Barnaby Edwards and especially the sound designer Simon Robinson. In the CD’s liner notes,
Morris talks about how he wrote this play with the aim of the listener sitting down at night in a darkened room and being really terrified. Well, thanks in no small part to Edwards and Robinson, Morris has achieved his goal. “The Haunting of Thomas Brewster” has an ambience that is all its own; a distinct identity that is only heightened by the bizarre, synthesised riff with an eastern twang that punctuates most of the play.
All told, I have nothing but praise for this one. As Morris says himself, this one is a ghost story and a detective story and a base under siege story and a bona fide head-scratcher. The new companion’s induction is certainly representative of what he is letting himself in for on his travels… Oh yes. New companion.
Now there is a twist that I forgot to mention…
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2008
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