(ISBN 1-903654-20-3)





 The Pinehill Crest

 Hotel in Kent is host

 to three different

 events: a cross-

 stitch convention,

 an experiment in

 time travel and...

 the summoning of

 the scourge.


 The Doctor, BeNNY and

 Ace find a dead body

 that's come back to

 life, a symbol that

 possesses its host,

 and a threat from

 another universe

 that's ready for

 every SINGLE trick

 THAT the Doctor's

 got up his sleeve.


 This time, has the

 Doctor gone too far?


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The Shadow

of the Scourge








As a big fan of the Virgin New Adventures and more specifically of Paul Cornell, The Shadow of the Scourge was a play that I was looking forward to enormously. New New Adventures? With one of the best and most prolific Virgin scribes writing the script? With all the apposite actors? What could be better?


Jumping across media is a tricky thing, though. Often people will walk out of the cinema, for example, shaking their head saying “it wasn’t anywhere near as good as the book.” And so whilst on the one hand The Shadow of the Scourge is a new and original story, listening to it I found myself scrutinising the play with extreme prejudice as the realisation of the mid-Virgin era TARDIS crew inevitably differed considerably from how I had always pictured them in my mind’s eye.


For starters, Ace doesn’t feel quite right. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but Sophie Aldred doesn’t quite sound how I expected the seasoned Dalek-killer to sound, nor does Ace come across as being quite as unlikeable as she did in many of the books. If you contrast this play with All-Consuming Fire (which, chronologically speaking, is the preceding story), where Ace kicks the shit out of Doctor Watson for just touching her arm, it’s evident that things are not quite right. In The Shadow of the Scourge Ace is certainly hard - really hard. She carries about equipment with her for lifting the lids off Daleks. She even allows her ear drums to be deliberately burst for the cause. However, she is not nasty, vindictive or selfish the way that the ‘New’ Ace of the novels could be. Maybe this was a conscious choice by the writer and the producers to make ‘New Ace’ more palatable for listeners who didn’t read the novels, or maybe it is just Cornell’s new handle on the character, given the benefit of hindsight.


Benny, however, they got exactly right. Lisa Bowerman is Benny. The dry wit, wry cynicism, and sexy charm just flows out of her the way that it did on the page. She is also given more than her fair share of the plot here, which as always benefits the story. Ace (even the young Ace) could not have sat amongst a group of psychics conducting a séance without causing ructions, for example. Fair enough, Benny tears them to shreds verbally, but she is still nice enough to them to earn the trust of Mary, their leader, and accomplish what the Doctor wants her to. Benny also gets her turn inside the Doctor’s head (Cornell seems quite keen on this little plot device) in which she meets all thirteen of the Doctor’s selves and takes a fancy to Doctor number eight, nicely foreshadowing the controversial events of The Dying Days.


Sylvester McCoy also gives a typically proficient performance. At this particular point in the New Adventures it could be argued that unlike Ace, who has gone the other way, the Doctor has actually lightened up. He has cast off his brown jacket, choosing to instead strut around in a white suit. He even does his best not to hatch massive cosmic plots. As such, one would not expect him to sound all that different to how he did on television early in his tenure, and so McCoy probably had an easier time of things than Aldred did in getting into character.


Preconceptions aside, The Shadow of the Scourge is an enthralling audio drama built on a fantastically imaginative premise. A hotel in present day Kent is besieged by the Scourge – multi-dimensional life forms that feed on fear and negative emotions (“like Radiohead”, Ace quips), intent on harvesting the human race. The Doctor has (seemingly) sold out to these creatures, but as usual he is the man with the plan and he has it all under control. Or so he thought...


Those familiar with Cornell’s New Adventures - particularly

Timewyrm: Revelation and

No Future - will no doubt spot

a number of similarities here, most notably the evident invincibility of the Scourge (much like the Timewyrm) and the Doctor’s master plan being thwarted, leaving his companions to bail him out. I have an inkling that listeners who haven’t read the aforementioned novels will enjoy this play more than I did as these concepts will seem fresher to them, and they’ll also be free of the great expectations that I had, which I don’t think that this play could have lived up to however good it would’ve been.


The above notwithstanding, I would absolutely love for Big Finish to produce more audios from this era because for me, the Doctor, Ace and Benny is the definitive seventh Doctor line-up. Who would have thought that years on, we would be given the chance to delve back into Virgin territory, and to do so in such dynamic fashion?


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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