THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE BIG
FINISH AUDIO DRAMAS
"NO MAN'S LAND" AND
BIG FINISH CD#92
On the human colony
there is suffering and
symptoms of an ages-
old war. Never the
less, Nocturne is also
one of the Doctor's
favourite places in
all of time and space,
because it is here
that a late, great
flowering of human
art - the High
Renaissance - is
He has been back here,
many times. It is a
place of music and
art which he finds
uplifting. It is a place
he wants to share
with Ace and Hex. It's
always been a safe
haven for him, a
world of friends and
But with strict
Martial Law imposed
on the front-line city,
and the brutal
vicing the system,
how safe can anyone
There is a note of
death in the wild,
Following hot on the heels of Paul Cornell and Mike Maddox’s outstanding audio anthology, Circular Time, Dan Abnett’s much more conventional four-parter is strikingly unremarkable. I can plainly see what the writer was trying to do with Nocturne, and in some respects he succeeds admirably, but on this whole this one feels a little apathetic.
At its worst, Nocturne conjured up unpleasant memories of Whispers of Terror and …ish – two of my least favourite Big Finish plays – in that it presents what is, for all intents and purposes, a soundy / wordy / arty / indefinable creature that is faceless and… well, a bit lacklustre.
However, the appalling ‘monster’ aside, Nocturne has its charms. In the eponymous planet, Abnett has created a delightfully romantic world. Vividly described in the dialogue, this haven for artisans slap-bang in the middle of a great war is a fascinating place, beautifully realised. The performances of the cast, the sound design by Steve Foxon, and the wonderful direction of John Ainsworth all combine to create a splendid picture of Glass City in the listener’s mind.
Furthermore, some of themes explored by Abnett in Nocturne build beautifully on what Martin Day began in No Man’s Land last November, particularly for Ace. Some of the most memorable scenes in this play see the crippled soldier Will Alloran (Paul David-Gough) recount ‘his war’ to Ace – all four days of it. The line about never having never took his safety off is particularly moving.
THE DOCTOR I know you and Thomas Hector were just teasing, but you’re right. I’ve got a
terrible habit of not telling you enough. You said it yourself. I take you
somewhere, and I don’t tell you why, or I don’t tell you everything. Or I only
tell you everything when it’s too late. I’m sorry for that. In my defence, I only
do it to protect you… In the future, I’ll make sure I tell you.
ACE I thought this was the future?
In his author’s note, Abnett talks about how much he enjoyed portraying the Doctor, Ace and Hex at their most “relaxed and unguarded” – something that really shines through in the final production. The dynamic between the three regulars really carries this play, particularly in the first and final episodes. What starts off as gentle banter in the opening scenes, suddenly doesn’t seem so gentle following the horrific cliffhanger ending to the third episode. Whether the events of this story will result in a marked change in how the seventh Doctor is portrayed remains to be seen – I doubt that we’ll see the sort of change in him that we saw in the New Adventures, for example, after the explosive events of No Future. What Abnett does here is far subtler, but probably just as poignant.
It’s also nice to learn that Earth isn’t the Doctor’s only “favourite planet”, and in the same way that he has the Brigadier and many other friends on Earth, he has a small enclave of friends resident on Nocturne that he visits time and again. I also like how the script has Ace and Hex discuss a multitude of adventures that aren’t documented on television, in print or even on audio. Even with the hundreds upon hundreds of Doctor Who stories out there across the media, there are infinitely more that are yet to be told - there will be always be missing adventures and gaps to plug. Sometimes it’s very easy to believe just how old the Doctor is!
On a final note, it now seems that ‘CD Extras’ are not exclusive to the eighth Doctor’s BBC7 CDs. This double-CD set contains an insightful fifteen-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, featuring (amongst other things) Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred’s views on how the media sensationalise the revived series. I was pleased to note that I’m not the only person who gets frustrated when the media says things that simply aren’t true like “before 2005, Daleks couldn’t get up stairs” and “before Rose, there’d never been a feisty companion.” Hopefully, there’ll be more of these little featurettes to come on future releases.
In the end, it’s a great pity that Nocturne lacks the punch of a good old-fashioned monster or villain, as it does just about everything else right. It isn’t the seventh Doctor’s worst audio outing and is well worth a listen, but it’s certainly not one that I’d suggest rushing out and buying if you’re a non-subscriber.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2007
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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