Written by Eddie Robson
Starring Tom Baker and Lalla Ward
We’ve become accustomed to seeing The Doctor square off against creatures from myths and legends – over the years he’s met Robin Hood, Santa Claus, and even the Devil himself – but how will he fare when he faces off with the dark forces of Dracula in this new audio adventure from Big Finish?
Of course, The Doctor has encountered vampires before, if you want to count the Sisters of the Water from Series 5’s The Vampires of Venice – although, chronologically speaking, this story would be his first time bumping into the blood-sucking baddies. Wibbly wobbly timey wimey. Whatever the case, you can rest assured that there’s no alien fish people, this time, around: these vampires are the real deal… or are they?
Starring Tom Baker as The Fourth Doctor and Lalla Ward as Romana, this two-part tale takes place in Budapest, where the pair of Time Lords are trying to make the most of their holiday to Hungary. Typically, though, they soon enough find themselves caught up in yet another mystery, coming across a murder victim with wound marks in their neck and a vampire hunter named Celia who is set on taking down Dracula. When it transpires that this is merely the latest in a series of similar attacks, it becomes clear that there’s a vampire at large in Budapest… and the only way to find him is to traverse the titular Labyrinth of Buda Castle.
The story is, perhaps unsurprisingly, quite dark in tone. There’s a very gothic feel that underlines the entire adventure, keeping in theme with the creatures from its source material. The very beginning of the piece, set inside the castle itself, is very tense and effective in introducing the threat of the vampire, and there’s plenty of “grisly business” and unexpected twists along the way to keep you shocked, engaged, and excited in equal measure. The climax, in particular, comes across as quite foreboding and brutal, as The Doctor very much meets his match in the antagonistic Zoltán Frid. Needless to say, you won’t be able to hear the word “sunbathing” in quite the same way again…
However, that’s not to say that The Labyrinth of Buda Castle is without its lighter moments. What writer Eddie Robson has done so well, particularly in his character portrayals, is to lace the dark and dramatic with flourishes of humour. Indeed, the opening scenes of The Doctor and Romana chatting away about Budapest is reminiscent of the opening scenes from the classic serial City of Death, with similarly comical dialogue. It never becomes quite as farcical as Douglas Adams’ story, mind, but the inspirations are definitely evident, and it’s a welcome change of tone that’s in keeping with Tom Baker’s incarnation.
Being a Big Finish production, the emphasis and importance of sound is really taken into account here also. Sound effects are used to excellent effect, creating an authentic feeling narrative that you can visualise and follow along with even without having any visuals to accompany it. The soundtrack, too, is very classic Doctor Who, exactly the sort of ambient and atmospheric music that you’d expect to hear in a normal televised episode of the show back in the 1970s. Credit must also go, of course, to the actors themselves – Tom Baker especially is on fine form, sounding just as he would in any of his previous adventures, spouting playful witticisms and delivering powerful, profound moments in his signature booming voice. The rest of the cast come together to give a really convincing performance, and it’s thanks to this that the real drama in The Labyrinth of Buda Castle is able to shine through.
With a compelling plot, effectively eerie sound design, and top-drawer acting, this new entry in the Doctor Who audio series is a traditional Fourth Doctor affair, and all the better for it. With all the hallmarks of one of the show’s heyday classics, this is a must-listen for any Tom Baker fan and a great jumping on point for anyone yet to be initiated into the world of Big Finish. To everyone involved who helped to put this production together, all I have to say is… fangs very much!
Blogtor Rating: 9/10
Written By: Eddie Robson
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), Kate Bracken (Celia Soames), Mark Bonnar (Zoltán Frid), Peter Barrett (Guard-Major Priskin), John Dorney (Ensign Kanta), Anjella Mackintosh (Anita Kereki)
Other parts played by members of the cast
Producer – David Richardson
Script Editor – John Dorney
Executive Producers – Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
‘A skilfully written and produced twist on the normal vampire tale. 9/10’ SFB
The Doctor and Romana land in Budapest, intent on enjoying another holiday, but shortly after landing they find themselves too late to save the life of a man who has seemingly been attacked by a vampire. As they learn that this is the latest in a series of violent attacks, it becomes clear that they have stumbled onto something that needs investigating.
Aided by a vampire hunter who is searching for Dracula, they look into the nearby Buda caves, currently being used for storage by the military – and find that the soldiers have problems of their own.
Stalked through the tunnels by a monster, and up against an ancient evil, the race is on to escape alive – and foil the dastardly schemes of the maniacal Zoltan Frid