Friday, February 8, 2013

Destiny of the Doctor: Hunters from Earth - AudioReview

Article author: Alwyn Ash

Celebrating the longest-running science fiction show, Destiny of the Doctor delivers a mysterious and atmospheric tale that is worthy of an anniversary release...

For the 50th anniversary where else better to start than in Shoreditch, London, 1963. Hunters From Earth, a collaboration between Big Finish and AudioGO, sees the First Doctor hurrying through the darkened streets of the East End. He is being stalked in the thick fog. Performed by Carole Ann Ford (as Susan Foreman), and joined by Tam Williams (real-life son of Simon Williams, who played Captain Gilmore in Remembrance Of The Daleks), this is the debut of an audio series, Destiny of the Doctor, which will see one story for each of the eleven Doctors for every month leading up to November. Writer Nigel Robinson, once editor of the popular Target Books' range of Doctor Who novelisations, manages to cook up a mix of suspense, which escalates as a small group of young people behave strangely out-of-character and threateningly.

Taking a look at 15-year-old Susan at Coal Hill School (briefly touched upon in the television serial An Unearthly Child) is a thoroughly interesting experience, especially when she befriends Sixth Form student Cedric (played by Williams). The introduction of Mr Rook, a teacher at the school, enhances the Alfred Hitchcock-esque tale as Susan and her grandfather are drawn into mystery and danger. Just what is affecting the teenagers of Coal Hill, and just why is Mr Rook so interested in the Doctor and his granddaughter?

Though Susan wants to be the normal girl, settle at school and make friends, her obvious "difference" and intelligence stand out among the other students, something that is noticed, too, by Rook. And as something changes, an atmosphere of restlessness and hatred, the time travellers must face life-threatening encounters.

The decision to set this First Doctor tale prior to Doctor Who's televised debut is genius, permitting further insight into London life in the early sixties, where Beatlemania is present and satellites are orbiting the Earth (the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, had only been launched a few years previous, in 1957). It is kind of disappointing that there had been no mention of schoolteachers Ian Chesterton or Barbara Wright (even a cameo with William Russell would have been something extra special) but Hunters From Earth delivers what it promises. Plus there are nice nods too, including a mention of Magpie Electricals (2006's The Idiot's Lantern) and the line "I trusted you, and you betrayed me" (which reminds this reviewer of Ace in Remembrance of the Daleks).

It must also be said that both the music and sound design, implemented so wonderfully by Simon Hunt (who has contributed to other titles including Pest Control, Snake Bite and The Wheel of Ice), does everything right, allowing for a perfect balance of suspense and every-day normality; there is always fear to be found around every corner, whether it be at night in a foggy street or elsewhere.

The only negative is Carole Ann Ford's impersonation of the Doctor, however this reviewer would have it no other way - it is an honour to listen to this actress revisiting a character she originally played almost fifty years ago, and reprised in the twentieth anniversary of the show alongside Richard Hurndall as the First Doctor (see The Five Doctors).

Though Hunters From Earth is a self-contained story, it is clear that there is a darkness approaching. As Susan tells her grandfather, "Something terrible is coming... I can feel it. Something that will affect, everything..."

A tale passionately directed by John Ainsworth, and given all by the whole team.

Further reading: AudioGO - official website