The latest entry to the world of Doctor Who: Short Trips from Big Finish is ‘The Mistpuddle Murders’. This Fifth Doctor story is a lovely little murder mystery and a very original piece of fiction from writer Simon A. Forward.
The Mistpuddle Murders
With the Doctor having vanished, Tegan and Nyssa find themselves in the strange town of Mistpuddle. The town is inhabited by woodland creatures who can walk and talk and who have a taste for tea and crumpets. But one of them is a murderer and it is up to Nyssa and Tegan to uncover ‘whodunnit’.
‘The Mistpuddle Murders’ comes from the pen of Simon A. Forward who previously authored another entry for Short Trips earlier this year with ‘Mel—Evolent’. This story uncovered one of the Doctor’s least suspecting companions a real dark side. Having already made fans wonder how he managed to draw out an evil side out of Mel’s character, Forward is back with another fantasy adventure full of talking animals but also murder. Links to Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries are worn on the sleeve of this script whilst still delivering an enjoyable tale. Like Christie, Forward manages to throw some curveballs into the proceedings, hoping that you are so infatuated with the characters that you won’t have heard the vital clues that have been laid out before you.
By Simon A. Forward
The concept of talking animals that live in town as Lords and Ladies, feels like something that wouldn’t be out of place in the pages of an Enid Blyton book. But oddly, it really works in the realms of a Doctor Who story. It is certainly different to anything that has been before and Forward does a good job of making sure that the animals get a scientific reason for being there. Peripheral characters are also fun, thanks largely to the narration from Sarah Sutton, but they wouldn’t be as enjoyable had Forward not delivered the goods. Not for one minute do you believe these animals aren’t postmen, cooks or Lords and the whole ‘Wind in the Willows’ feel is just the icing on the cake.
Forward also has a great handle on the characters of Nyssa and Tegan, two companions that writers very often get wrong. Writers tend to write Tegan as someone who is mean and not very pleasant to be around, whilst Nyssa is the wallflower. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. For the most part, Big Finish have succeeded at doing these characters justice and there are no missteps with ‘The Mistpuddle Murders’. Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding would have had a whale-of-a-time performing this script! Forward keeps the focus on Nyssa, for the obvious reason that Sutton is the narrator but he makes sure there is plenty for both characters to do.
Performed by Sarah Sutton
Pulling double duty as both Nyssa and the narrator, Sarah Sutton steps up the plate with gusto. She is an absolute delight and the perfect choice as narrator for this story. The fact that this story feels like something from a children’s story doesn’t seem to have escaped her notice either and she reads this story as if she is sat around little ones, describing the events unfolding around her. To some this might stop the story from being entertaining but for this listener it did the opposite. Doctor Who has always been able to deliver brilliant scripts that tap into many different genres and this story is further proof of that.
Sutton’s impersonation of Janet Fielding’s Tegan is also delightful. While it isn’t pitch perfect, as impersonations rarely are, you never feel like it isn’t Tegan who is delivering those lines. As Nyssa, Sutton is still hugely agreeable in the role and she makes her seem genuinely surprised at the many twists and turns that this story takes. So good in the role of narrator, one wonders why it has taken Big Finish so long to bring her back in the Short Trips range. Hopefully, it won’t take them two more years before she is back in the narration seat!
‘The Mistpuddle Murders’ is a very enjoyable story that more than deserves the half-hour of your time. It should go without saying now that Lisa Bowerman provides terrific direction, helping the story to move along at a fast pace. Not once does this story drop the ball and there are a number of twists and turns that one might not see coming.
Sarah Sutton is excellent as both the narrator and Nyssa, reaffirming why she is one of the most underrated characters in the history of the show. The script from Simon A. Forward is just divine, full of lovely dialogue and appealing concepts. There has never been anything quite like this story before in ‘Doctor Who’ and as such it feels wholly original.
Release #47 is a Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan story.
Welcome to Mistpuddle.
“I’m sure you’re all wondering why I’ve gathered you here. I’m sure you’re all wondering why the village is home to woodland creatures with a taste for tea, cakes and secrets. And I’m sure you’re all wondering where the Doctor has vanished to. The truth is not as quaint as the pretty cottages and mostly cute residents would have you believe.
Murder has come to Mistpuddle. And no-one is leaving until we uncover whodunnit.”