The third release by Big Finish, Whispers of Terror, does something brilliant. It gives us a creature that exists as a sound. When I was a kid, I had a Star Trek record where the crew encountered a sound creature and it was weird and wonderful. All these years later, and here we are in the land of Doctor Who with a sound creature. What makes this brilliant isn’t the idea itself but the medium that it was released on: CD. This is an audio story where the creature can live in the car as you’re driving. Or in the CD player you’re listening to. It’s a damned good idea for an audio story. I love when the writers are daring with a creative idea. It makes up for a lot!
That’s not to say it’s perfect. Don’t get me wrong, Colin Baker has a fantastic voice and can project almost as well as Brian Blessed but the story starts off on the wrong foot. In fact, episode one turned me off initially. The Doctor’s sarcasm with Peri is offensive, implying she’s “redundant” and she picks up on the look he gives her when he says the word “dim”, implying in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t think much of his traveling companion. This was a bit hard to swallow. I also get tired of Big Finish thinking a loud sound makes a good ending. “Oh NOOOOO…. OoooEEEE,ooooobaba-da-bum,baba-da-bum….” Or <Explosive crash> OoooEEEEooooo,baba-da-bum,baba-da-bum….” Ok, loud noises made “Rock” from Anchorman uncomfortable, but for the listener, they just get old really fast. Although one of the endings reminded me of my favorite cliffhanger from The Face of Evil, so I’ll accept that one a bit more…
But barring those things, the story does ramp up well. It’s also timely today. The plot centers around the political rise to power for Beth Purnell. She is at the Museum of Aural Antiquities where she hopes the words of the “worlds greatest actor” will help launch her political career. So there’s a lot to that: the worlds greatest actor will convince people of her place as a politician. The world “needs a strong leader”, she insists. I found myself thinking of the situation (for, what else can one call it) here in the US!
I also just read a short Agatha Christie story with detective Parker Pyne who comments on the fact that one of the suspects in a murder doesn’t fit the profile of a murderer. When a similar thing happened in this, I was surprised! But it does bear thought: a trained police officer or detective probably would be able to gauge with reasonable accuracy whether a man were guilty of a crime or not. However, the moment I enjoyed most however was one of two aural stunts. (One I will remain silent on so the listener can enjoy it themselves – though I’m certain there’s a pun in there somewhere!) The Doctor is talking through a communicator to Peri and Gantman, the blind curator of the museum (played by Doctor Who legend Peter Miles), when… the Doctor walks into the room. The two realize they’ve being fooled by the creature. But this gives the Doctor a chance to talk to it – it’s not infallible! This is a creature that can be defeated and does make mistakes. I thought that was a breath of fresh air! (Speaking of Gantman, Miles has such a distinctive voice, I kept expecting Nyder to announce he was working for Davros!)
The story becomes increasingly exciting and by the end, I was completely invested. There’s a strong story here and it holds up well. It’s a great listen in the car, especially as a car accident takes place at one point and freaked me out a bit! But it does end with another low note. The Doctor mimics Peri’s “So long” and it’s painful to hear. It has its flaws but they are but a small portion of an otherwise exciting story. ML