THIS STORY TAKES
DEATH IN THE FAMILY."
BIG FINISH CD#141
RELEASED IN NOVEMBER
1934: the TARDIS lands
on a snowy island off
the coast of Alaska –
one that wasn’t there
four years ago. The
island is dominated
by a vast, twisted
citadel. Inside it, the
Lurkers lie dreaming.
It's said when they
wake the world will
Led by the ruthless
an expedition has
come to the citadel,
to exploit ALL OF ITS
like those published
in the pages of the
where a hero's only
reward is madness,
death… or worse.
Horrors that the
Doctor and his TWO
companions are JUST
about to wake up.
The final of this year’s seventh Doctor, Ace and Hex adventures comes from the pen of Scottish scribbler Marty Ross, whose Companion Chronicle, Night’s Black Agents, notably bridged the gap between the sixth Doctor audio plays City of Spires and The Wreck of the Titan. Much like his earlier effort, Ross’s script is firmly rooted in literary sensibilities, although this time, rather than characters from Scottish romantic literature, he turns to the life and works of eminent horror author HP Lovecraft for inspiration.
The mingling of Lovecraftian mythos and Doctor Who is nothing new by any means. As long ago as the early 1990s, authors such as David A McIntee and Craig Hinton were weaving Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones into the fabric of the Whoniverse, even re-writing Who history to fold the likes of Fenric and the Great Intelligence into their ranks. Lurkers at Sunlight’s Edge takes a very different approach, however, looking more to the man than to the monsters that his stories spoke of. This is the tragic tale of C P Doveday, Lovecraft by another name, and the externalisation of his internal tortures. Literally…
I really like the pulp 1930s feel, particularly how Ross uses it to blur fact and fiction. There’s something inherently appealing about a story where the weird gothic tales are the truth and the delicate, textured façade is the lie, particularly when the actor charged with revealing that truth has the magnetism of Michael Brandon (The Stolen Earth). The downside, at least for me, is that in giving Doveday’s Shuddersome Tales a basis in truth, the plot becomes little more than a rehearsal of redolent, but nonetheless worn-out, mass-market horror staples.
What also lets this story down is its near-
total detachment from the two previous
stories. Whereas Project: Destiny saw
this latest mini-season begin with a bang,
Lurkers sees it conclude with the coldest
of whispers. Here Ross shepherds our
heroes through a formulaic adventure
that, were it not for a couple of fleeting
references to the colour of the TARDIS
and the Doctor’s very recent resurrection,
could have fallen almost anywhere in this
trio’s travels. This stand-alone quality will
no doubt appeal to listeners who only
make the occasional purchase, but for
me it only serves to highlight just how much more enjoyment I get out of a strong, progressive story arc.
That said, whilst the regular characters aren’t interestingly developed or taken forward here, they are at least convincingly presented. Sophie Aldred’s Ace fares the best by far, as Ross uses her friendship with Doveday to explore her oft-veiled compassionate side. For his part, Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor enjoys a jobbing but innocuous investigative thread, while Hex is afforded far more steel than is the norm. Philip Olivier really seems to have enjoyed throwing himself into the action-packed arctic sequences, and his closing aside about his continually enraging Death is also a beautiful way to leave things. Whilst it may lack the punch of The Angel of Scutari’s screaming cliffhanger, its subtlety is, perhaps, a much more portentous presage.
The production itself is as refined as ever, with Steve Foxon’s wintry sound design and Ken Bentley’s stalwart direction combining to produce a soundscape that’s as vivid as it is frosty. The cast are also an impressive bunch, and none more so than Stuart Milligan (Dreamland), who imbues the pitiless Emerson Whytecrag with such a sense of chilling lunacy that I kept being put in mind of Barty Kitchen, and what he did to Hex.
By and large though, Lurkers at Sunlight’s Edge came as a disappointment to me. Whilst nothing about it is poor, when following two such insuperable releases its more workmanlike qualities are really brought into sharp focus. The best thing about it is probably its baroque title, but it’s hard to recommend it to a non-subscriber on the strength of that.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2010
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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