As I write this review, it’s been almost 11 months since the end of Series 6 and it’s less than a week until the eagerly anticipated Asylum of the Daleks airs for the first time. Screenings have been aired, critics have been wowed and secrets have been kept. The excitement is palpable. And so it’s as good a time as any to pay respects to the many, many people who do such a great job of keeping Doctor Who alive between television series by way of books, comics and, of course, audio adventures.
One of these tremendous people is Simon Guerrier, writer of this latest exclusive audio adventure for The Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory, The Empty House. In his new story, we find the TARDIS is hit by a storm and lands in 1920s rural Hampshire near to a remote cottage and, more compellingly for The Doctor, the site of a crashed spaceship.
Surrounded by rain and mud, Rory returns to the TARDIS to get a coat with a hood for his wife, while the Doctor and Amy investigate the spaceship – only to discover it’s deserted. Equally deserted is the Mary Celeste-like cottage, with its still-glowing fire and its just-washed dishes. So why is it that Amy hears voices? Where are they coming from? Who do they belong to? And can one of the voices be Rory’s?
The Empty House is a creeping, haunted house tale that uses a plot device seen before in Doctor Who on an epic scale, but used here to evoke a disturbing, ghostly place where sonic screwdrivers are useless and even the Doctor is initially at a loss to explain what’s happening to him, Amy and the missing Rory.
Once the mystery has been resolved (after a fair old while), the tension quickly ratchets up a notch or two as Amy and the Doctor fight against time and a foe they can hear but can’t see to escape the ‘empty’ house and reach the safety of the TARDIS.
Racquel Cassidy, who played Miranda Cleaves in The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People, narrates The Empty House with aplomb, her beautiful, rich voice providing a melancholy counterpoint to the creaking sound effects. Despite being an eerie tale, there are a couple of fan-pleasing nods to the past. The wonderful techno-nonsense, such as “Phase mis-match un-reconciled”, wouldn’t be out of place in a Third Doctor adventure and there’s a cough-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to a nano recorder. And The Doctor gets a new hat. Which is cool. Hats are cool.
But what this story does really, really well is show the relationship between Amy and her two boys. Her best-buds banter with The Doctor and her love of Rory and his “stupid face” are portrayed beautifully. As we approach the last five television episodes to feature the Ponds, The Empty House is a fitting love story to their love story.
And their time with The Doctor.