The 1920s saw silent movies beginning to dwindle as they were taken over by what were called ‘Talkies’. These are the movies that we know and love today. But at the time, ‘Talkies’ were pushing silent movie actors and actresses aside, leaving them unemployable because they didn’t pass the voice tests. For these actresses, it was a nightmare. But when the Doctor, Romana and K9 turn up, things take an even darker turn…
THE AWARD FOR BEST SCREEN WRITER GOES TO…
James Goss delivers another good script for this 2-part story, fitting the Doctor, Romana and K9 into real history. While Goss’s script might not be a knock out of the park, just from the opening moments, you know that this is one to enjoy. He takes the idea of losing your voice, what some people might call your very identity and gives it a horrid twist, that you really will lose your identity.
Another idea which Goss brings to the table is the need to collect things. People collect a whole plethora of items, stuffed animals, thimbles, those weird spoon things one gets from holidays, but what would happen if you took your collection to extremes. That is what Dr Julius (Alec Newman) shows us, as he travels backwards through time, collecting the voices of those silent screen actresses, removing pieces of them and turning the rest into grotesque celluloids. A very nice little touch here is the Doctor’s explanation as why to people collect things, some do it because they really enjoy something while others do it to preserve pieces of history. That is what Dr Julius is doing, just going about it in the wrong way.
OSCAR WORTHY PERFORMANCES
‘The Silent Scream’ features some fine performances. Although set in Tom Baker’s final series, series eighteen, here, Baker is miles away from the silent and brooding character he played up to the end in ‘Logopolis’. He seems to bounce through the script like there is no stopping him and seems to take delight in saying the name ‘Lulu’. The Doctor and Romana are split up early in the story but this gives Lalla Ward a nice go at playing the Doctor, travelling around Hollywood with K9 and getting deeply involved with the ongoing plot. John Leeson is of course, delightful as the robotic dog. All three regulars seem to be having a blast.
The guest cast sees Pamala Salem returning to the world of the Fourth Doctor as the out of work silent movie actress, Lorretta Waldorf. Unfortunately, she is one of the people who loses her voice so she is reduced to making grunting and groaning noises for most the story. It would be a shame, but what little we do hear of her, she more than makes up for her absence. Also brilliant is Alec Newman as the sinister Dr Julius, a man who never really wanted to be evil but was misguided and got twisted on the way. But the real runaway performance comes from Andree Bernard as the movie studio owner, Lulu Hammerstein. Lulu almost becomes the companion for this story as she spends much of her time paired up with Baker’s Fourth Doctor. Their scenes together are enjoyable and the two actors obviously had great chemistry.
And of course, one couldn’t listen to ‘The Silent Scream’ and not take note of how Goss makes more than a few references to the mass junking of ‘Doctor Who’ stories in the sixties and seventies. While this happened to a lot of television shows and films, the Doctor tells Lulu off for her plan to junk all her silent films, something which she never thought would be worth anything in the future. And this is the exact mentality that led to mass junking’s within the BBC and the loss of many classic ‘Doctor Who’ serials.
ONE TO REMEMBER?
‘The Silent Scream’ is a story full of moments, the story is good and strong, though it does lack a little excitement in the second part. But it’s the little moments that will make it memorable. Moments like Tom Baker saying “Lulu” and K9 asking Romana if she is an actress because she was pretending to be someone she wasn’t. But like a silent movie, one does fear that this will one day, be forgotten…
BLOGTOR RATING 7/10
On the set of a busy Hollywood movie in the late 1920s, a damsel is in distress! As cameras roll, she opens her mouth to scream and… nothing comes out. Nothing at all. It’s happened again.
The Doctor, Romana and K9 have arrived in a terrified Tinseltown. A new film is being made and several stars of the silent screen are viewing it as a potential comeback… but it may prove a poisoned chalice. Actors are vanishing and strange creatures stalk the streets.
Something evil is lurking behind the scenery. Can the Doctor stop it when he doesn’t have a voice?
It’s time for his close-up.
- Written By: James Goss
- Directed By: Nicolas Briggs
- Producer: David Richardson
- Script Editor: John Dorney
- Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs
Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), John Leeson (K9), Alec Newman (Dr Julius), Pamela Salem (Lorretta Waldorf), Jane Slavin (Nelly), Andrée Bernard (Lulu Hammerstein), John Banks (Cab Driver/ Director)