Monday, December 31, 2012

Big Finish - Night of the Stormcrow

Subscribers get more at Big Finish and this Christmas the bonus release was Night of the Stormcrow, written by Marc Platt and directed by Nicholas Briggs. At the moment it is only available with a subscription and won't be available to buy for another year.

The Fourth Doctor and Leela arrive at a remote observatory on Mount McKerry. The Tardis has misbehaved and this seems to be related to a power surge that has damaged the astronomers' instruments. The clue to the mystery may be a strange signal that the scientists were scanning before all their equipment failed. Have they discovered a new life form? Or has it discovered them?

This is classic Doctor Who territory. A remote base in peril, a group of scientists who are pushing things a bit far, some lurking danger outside, and a splendidly eccentric Doctor who wades into the middle of things with scarf and teeth flowing in the wind. The first act of this two part story is wonderfully creepy as something dark and nasty starts to pick off members of the group. I was reminded of Nigel Kneale's The Stone Tape which has the same mixture of old and new, and science coming up against an ancient evil which it believes it can control until events spiral out of control.

Tom Baker and Louise Jameson are on top form and are ably matched by Ann Bell, and by another Big Finish appearance from Chase Masterson. Both of them play characters who are not completely sympathetic  but whose actions are understandable. Their scientific curiosity drives them towards things they don't comprehend and it may be asking too much for even the Doctor to save them.

After a sinister and compelling first part the second chapter has a lot to live up to and perhaps inevitably it falls short as Marc Platt has to explain what is going on and provide some resolution. The air of menace from earlier is dispelled by some of the techno-babble. It's not bad and the music and sound design by Jamie Robertson are fantastic, but it doesn't quite reach the five star standard set by the opening.

Let's give it 4 out of 5 Janus thorns and applaud Big Finish for such a high standard in its recent releases.

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