by Justin Richards
Review by Nick Fraser
1942, an island just off the coast of Singapore, a scary place to be when facing the imminent invading forces of the Japanese army. Fear extends over a fishing town located on the island, and there’s a creeping expectation of fearful things to come.
Perfect territory for the arrival of The Doctor and his youthful TARDIS crew, Ben, Polly and Jamie. More so for a lurking, fear-eating, shape-shifting creature from outer space, looking like Death. And the alien’s dreadful appearance comes about not as a result of his long interstellar journey: rather, the mystery creature has fashioned a plan to build up his strength by becoming the embodiment of the Grim Reaper, feasting on the curdled milk of human terror.
So far, so grim. But the Doctor quickly senses that something is amiss, and wastes little time in getting involved with events at the Grand Hotel, a residence trading on fading glories, occupied by a dwindling group of plucky expats and soldiers, with a fine line in stiff upper-lippery.
Then Ben’s involvement in events suddenly takes centre stage, when he discovers he has a rather close familial relationship with one of the island’s residents.
Big Finish audios allow a liberal dipping back into the Doctor Who back catalogue, expanding the sometimes limited spaces occupied by episodes of the television series. It’s a pleasure to listen to the interactions between this particular TARDIS crew, who otherwise only appear together over five TV adventures, much of which are now only available in audio format as “missing episodes”. Frazer Hines effortlessly revives the character of Jamie, and provides a convincing evocation of the Second Doctor. Anneke Wills doubles up on duty as narrator as well as rolling time back with her performance of the youthful Polly. And Elliot Chapman completes the quartet, ably stepping in to the role of able-bodied seaman Ben Jackson. His is a less obvious impersonation of the late Michael Craze than Hines’ interpretation of Patrick Troughton, but this listener quickly forgot that a different actor was playing the part.
Overall this is a very entertaining, claustrophobic adventure, in which Justin Richards effectively builds up a sense of tension as the hotel residents are stalked by the shape-shifting creature and picked off one by one.
Released at the same time the current version of The Doctor is facing the body switcheroo antics of the Zygons, and with the release (at last!) of The Underwater Menace, this tale offers a perfect blend and comes highly recommended.
BLOGTOR RATING 8/10
Thanks to Big Finish