THIS STORY TAKES
NOVEL "THE EYELESS"
BBC AUDIO CD (ISBN 1-
IN JULY 2009.
WHEN HARRY WINTER
GOES OUT COLLECTING
ROCKS TO REPAIR THE
WALL AROUND THE
FARM, HE MAKES A
FATAL MISTAKE. HE
The TARDIS arrives
in an 18th Century
village in the
where livestock has
been vanishing from
the farmland and
strange lights have
been seen in the skies.
becomes involved in
AN adventure, in
which he is helped
by a young local
Who is feeding on the
blood of the locals,
and where will the
(2 70-MINUTE EPISODES)
On balance, the fourth talking book in BBC Audio’s ongoing series of exclusive adventures is almost certainly its best. Though it lacks the killer commercial punch of being narrated by either David Tennant or Catherine Tate, newcomer Scott Hancock’s moody
and enchanting tale is so quintessentially Doctor Who that it can’t do anything other than impress. The whole affair is infused with a spooky, rustic quality that simply cries out Philip Hinchcliffe / Robert Holmes, and in addition it also has a certain seductive quality that really sets it apart from most other contemporary tie-ins.
A village locked inside a darkened dome gives
Hancock a suitably forbidding backdrop to tell
his horror story against, and particularly in the
second ‘episode’ this artificial darkness also
lends the tale an exquisite poetic quality that you
will not often find in releases of this type. What I think was truly inspired though was Hancock
choosing to make his alien menace, the Barvan She, a photosensitive race. Not only does
this constitute a plausible explanation for the village being plunged into permanent darkness,
but it also presents the Doctor with one of those magnificent ‘Hexachromite’ dilemmas. Yes,
he could save the day, but at what cost…?
In fact, I think what made The Rising Night so enjoyable for me though was Hancock’s exceptional portrayal of the Doctor. Explicitly set shortly after he leaves Acropolis in The Eyeless, here the Doctor is in a reflective, almost melancholy mood. The absence of his companion is weighing upon him heavily; there is one beautiful scene where he walks out
of the TARDIS to find heavy rain, and so goes back inside to put his coat on. There is no point in him striding out pretending that the elements don’t bother him anymore; he has no-one to impress.
“Dance with me, Doctor. Make me better…”
Of course, Hancock does eventually provide the Doctor with a makeshift companion in the form of 18th century housewife, Charity, and what is more he pushes this character in a very bold and remarkable direction. Early on in the second ‘episode’ of the story, one could be forgiven for thinking that Charity is red-shirted (as many of these one-off companions are), but in fact the story’s ending is far less prosaic and far more agonising than that. I won’t give too much away about her wretched fate, but I will say that the final scene where Charity’s husband watches the sun rise without her is especially poignant.
Moreover, for an audio book, events seem to rattle along at a fair pace. Far more used to listening to audio drama, in the past I have found the wallowing prose of bona fide audio books a little too measured for my tastes; I like to read prose, not hear it. With The Rising Night though, Hancock walks the tightrope very well indeed – his prose is rich and evocative, but his story far pacier than I had expected. For instance, the listener is really thrown into the plot at the deep end; it almost feels as if we have joined the adventure part-way through as we encounter Hancock’s (initially) amnesiac Doctor, held down and interrogated by an angry mob of villagers.
There are also some nice little flutters of fan service to be found here; the veiled references to both Castrovalva and the Torchwood episode Small Worlds both drew smiles from yours truly, as did the reveal that the Barvan She are in fact ancient enemies of the Time Lords; ancient enemies that nearly perished in the Last Great Time War…
And for her part, Michelle Ryan does a splendid job with the narration. Her ‘Doctor voice’ may be more Albert Square than mockney, but it is really not bad at the end of the day; it even seems to improve as the production progresses. Where she really excels though is in voicing the licentious Barvan She and the residents of Thornton Rising. For example, each villager is given a suitably thick brogue, really helping to bring the story alive.
All things considered then, laden as it is with abbeys and sisterhoods and pseudo-sirens, The Rising Night is certainly the most alluring exclusive audio book released so far by
BBC Audio. The production may still not quite be up to the lofty standards of Big Finish’s thriving Companion Chronicles series, but of course The Rising Night has the overriding advantage of being a fully-fledged Doctor Who adventure, and a new series one at that.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2009
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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