Monday, 25 April 2011

Doctor Who: Hornets’ Nest 3 – The Circus of Doom, by Paul Magrs – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

The fourth Doctor continues his adventures in the Hornets’ Nest saga. This time Mike Yates is stuck in the cellar, listening as the Doctor spins a tale of a trip to June 1832, and an evil circus which spirits people away from their families. One such is trapeze artist Francesca, the sister of Dr Adam Farrow (Michael Moloney). “Are you saying your sister ran away with the circus?” asks the Doctor. “How wonderful! I always imagined doing that when I was a boy. We didn’t get many circuses visiting, though.” But the ringmaster of this circus is the willing possession of a race of intelligent alien insects, and an even greater obstacle is the Doctor’s own knowledge of a tragedy that must surely come to pass. Even as he begins to take the measure of his new enemies, he starts to feel that he is falling a step or two behind.

Paul Magrs gives the Doctor a stream of wonderful dialogue in this episode – “I’m no strange man, I’m the Doctor, and I don’t like to see people looking scared…” – and Tom Baker’s line readings are as surprising and vibrant as ever. It’s worth the fiver or so this CD costs just to hear the relish with which he says “bearded lady”. Macabre and funny, this is some of the best-written Doctor Who out there; for example the Tardis materialises with a “cheery brouhaha”. It’s a taste of what a Tom Baker series might have been like with the production values of the David Tennant era. Sadness comes with the thought that the Brigadier was originally intended to be the Doctor’s partner in these stories. Richard Franklin holds the ground, but these would have made a superb final outing for his commanding officer.

Doctor Who: Hornets’ Nest 3 – The Circus of Doom, by Paul Magrs, read by Tom Baker and others, BBC Audiobooks, 1×CD, 70 mins. Amazon US. Amazon UK.

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