Eluding the Black Guardian, the TARDIS randomiser deposits the Fourth Doctor and Romana (the Second) in Brighton, 1833 – just in time to attend the opening of the Pavilion. Well, eighteen years early but who’s counting? Actually, the Doctor is and so, rather than risk capture by disabling the randomiser, he resolves to wait it out in a deckchair while Romana nips out to explore Europe. Before long, however, events conspire to bring the duo to Madame Tissot’s travelling waxworks where a face (or, more precisely, a head) from the past and her pliable accomplice lie in wait.
Accompanying the always-excellent Tom Baker and Lalla Ward is Celia Imrie (who played Miss Kizlet in the 2013 TV story ‘The Bell of Saint John’) clearly having a ball playing Madame Tissot. Her exaggerated French accent perfectly complements the unabashed camp of this story. The small supporting cast keeps the story laser-focused and all turn in a good performance.
Tonally, ‘Gallery of Ghouls’ would have been right at home alongside the late-Seventies crop of stories written by the likes of Douglas Adams. It’s a daft knockabout with some smashing one-liners for the Doctor, including a monologue he gives early on which proves writer Alan Barnes has a keen sense of Tom Baker’s comic timing. The plot is a perfect example of Doctor Who when it doesn’t take itself too seriously. As important as high-concept science-fiction is, we sometimes forget that not every story needs to be some commentary on the human condition with the whole Galaxy on the line. There’s room for a bit of harmless fun!
Which does, unfortunately, mean that this production occasionally feels a bit inconsequential, like a series of moments barely held together by the narrative. Oh, they’re great moments, but the thin story makes them feel just a wee bit unearned. The plot takes a backseat to punchlines, especially towards the end with a potentially game-changing character revelation being brought up for a joke only to be immediately swept away.
When you have a character as culturally important as the Fourth Doctor, it’s easy for writers to mistakenly assume he has to be doing important things. To be sure, there’s plenty of Big Finish plays starring Tom Baker that have him doing universe-altering stuff, but ‘Gallery of Ghouls’ is probably the best example of a story perfectly suiting the Fourth Doctor.
Blogtor Rating – 7/10
This title was released in May 2016. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until June 30th 2016, and on general sale after this date.
When the TARDIS lands in Brighton the Doctor and Romana have the chance to spend some time at the seaside. But with it being too early for the opening of the Pavilion, they have to look elsewhere for their entertainment – perhaps Madame Tissot’s travelling waxworks, recently arrived in town?
But they’re not the only ones interested in her Exposition. When an unusual thief commits an unusual theft, the time travellers are on the case.
What exactly is the sinister secret of Goole’s Gallery? Is Tissot’s heading for a meltdown? And what does it all have to do with the head of Marie Antoinette?
Written By: Alan Barnes
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), Celia Imrie (Madame Tissot),Nickolas Grace (Goole), Stephen Critchlow (Noni)