I had been well ahead of myself with my writing until I came to this story. After listening to it, I did not write my normal review because I was stumped. The Chimes of Midnight is the first story I had a hard time bringing myself to write about in nearly 30 stories. And you’re probably wondering why. Why would this, possibly the best of all Big Finish audios, stump me so? Probable because it may indeed be the best of the Big Finish audios! If nothing more, at least it’s the best to date. It’s a character study, a mystery, a black comedy, and Christmas story all rolled into one. It’s scary and exciting, it has some outstanding music, and the entire cast shines. What’s hard to write about that?
Well that’s the thing, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s easier to write about those things that you can knock, mock, or make fun of. What can I say about Chimes? I can give examples of the brilliance, but without posting the whole script, what would I say? Could I illustrate the black comedy using Mr. Shaughnessy’s obsession that Edith committed suicide, when every one of her “suicides” is utterly impossible? That shouldn’t even be a conversation when typically one can only commit suicide once, but not in this house! Mrs. Bradley’s suggestion that Edith was so stupid that she probably didn’t know it was impossible cannot help but make us laugh. My personal favorite in this series of suggestions is when the Doctor finally accepts that suicide might be the answer, even though he knows it couldn’t be.
Shaughnessy: I assume it was suicide, Doctor?
Doctor: Yes, I imagine so. It’s quite clear that Frederick brougth the car into the house, ran himself over with it, and put it back outside before he finally expired.
We get some background into Charley and her character really mattered to me in this story. In fact, this was the first time I realized I actually like her and this story made her very likable indeed. (I didn’t care for her regression to childhood, but it made sense in the circumstances!) I loved that she cared so much about Edith, who was constantly told she was nothing, a nobody. As for the idea about being trapped in a separate instance of time was strange and unnerving. McGann conveys the terror the Doctor experiences at being stuck in a place beyond his understanding. Two of the three cliffhangers are outstanding too. “Too late. I think that whatever was keeping us out has decided to let us in after all!” This really made me want to keep driving to listen to the next part. The part two cliffhanger is a count-up to the minute (57…58…59… NO) which I find slightly tedious but the story made it acceptable but the final cliffhanger at the end of part 3 really impressed me. The Doctor, actually afraid and trying to escape, heads for the TARDIS. As they dematerialize and escape, Charley hears the familiar sound of the grandfather clock in Edward Grove, the house within which they were trapped. Again, McGann nails the delivery, sending chills down my spine.
Doctor: I was wrong to think we could escape the house. Instead, we’ve taken the house with us!
The finale made me feel teary with happiness too. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the the Big Finish episodes that I’ve revisited, but this one, hands down, takes the #1 spot. Of all of the episodes, none come close to this one. The music was fantastic too. Typically the music is background but in this story, it is almost a character in its own right. I’m going to say it: if there is one Big Finish that you can buy, let it be this one. McGann is even better than his normally outstanding self. Fisher gives Charley extra dimension through this marvelous script. And every member of the supporting cast becomes the characters they portray. A stellar performance of an amazing script from an outstanding cast! What more can one ask for? ML