The latest release from Big Finish Doctor Who Main Range is a comedy murder mystery; a sort of ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’ in space.
The Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Adric head to Argentia – a temporally displaced tax haven – in space in search of a crystal substance required to make a new sonic screwdriver. But they come across more than they bargained for, arriving at the funeral of mining mogul Carlo Mazzini. Mazzini’s entire family have arrived to bid him adieu and find out what they have inherited. However, things don’t go so smoothly when a murderer in a silver mask starts picking off the Mazzini family. Can our TARDIS troop solve the mystery before the Mazzinis are no more?
The central conceit for this joyous adventure was inspired by the 1949 film, “Kind Hearts and Coronets”. Alec Guinness, best known to sci-fi fans as Obi-Wan Kenobi, singlehandedly plays an entire family murdered one-by-one to ensure a line of inheritance falls to a distant poor relative of the family. Written by David Llewellyn, it’s refreshing for the stakes of this story not to be universal or even galactic as the Doctor’s machinations are wont to be. Instead we have this intimate yarn in the form of an isolated character piece. The ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’ jumping off point is exactly that, the direction the plot takes after the initial set-up is wholly different and wonderfully entertaining, with a murder mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end.
Just as in ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’, the entire Mazzini family in Silver Mask is voiced by the incredibly talented Samuel West. The character’s physical and vocal similarities are cleverly explained by an intentional cloning process to maintain the family line. This is a forceful performance by West and well worth a listen just to hear the vocal variety he brings. A sure highlight has to be when he is playing a matriarchal member of the family and has to attempt to seduce the Doctor. Another highlight is Phil Cornwell as humanoid dog superintendent, Galgo. He is very much an Inspector Lestrade to the Doctor’s Sherlock Holmes. The story also boasts great performances by Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse as Tegan, Nyssa and Adric respectively. All of whom seem have fun playing the Watson role.
The closest equivalent I can draw between Serpent in the Silver Mask and the classic televised series is to a Colin Baker story. It’s like Terror of the Vervoids but without any of the Carrot Juice. It finds the perfect balance of plot, characterisation, mystery and fun. If you enjoy the lighter Davidson episodes like Black Orchid, then you’ll love Serpent in the Silver Mask. If you’re not a fan of lighter stories, this tremendously fun adventure is still worth a listen for Sam West playing an entire family at once.
Blogtor Rating – 10/10
This title was released in March 2018. It will be exclusively available to buy from the BF website until April 30th 2018, and on general sale after this date.
You are cordially invited to Argentia, the galaxy’s most exclusive tax haven, to attend the funeral of mining magnate Carlo Mazzini. The memorial service will be followed by music, light refreshments, and murder!
Carlo’s heirs have come to say their final goodbyes (and find out how much they’ve inherited) but when a masked killer begins picking them off one by one, Argentia goes into lock-down, closed off behind its own temporal displacement field.
Can the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric apprehend the murderer before Argentia – and everyone on board – is forever cut off from the rest of the Universe?
Written By: David Llewellyn
Directed By: Barnaby Edwards
Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Samuel West (The Mazzini Family), Phil Cornwell (Superintendent Galgo / Zaleb 5), Sophie Winkleman (Sofia). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor Guy Adams
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs