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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Magic Mousetrap


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 408 5
Available 30 April 2009

Switzerland, 1926: the Doctor finds himself halfway up an Alpine mountainside, on his way to an exclusive sanatorium for the rich and famous run by the Viennese alienist Ludovic “Ludo” Comfort. In between bouts of electric shock therapy, Ludo’s patients - including faded music hall turn Harry Randall, chess grandmaster Swapnil Khan and Lola Luna, darling of the Weimar cabaret scene - fill their time with endless rounds of Snap!, among other diversions. But the Doctor soon suspects that someone is playing an altogether more sinister game, someone with a score to settle…

I have to admit, I was not particularly looking forward to this double CD, the first in a three-month season of Seventh Doctor adventures. Sylvester McCoy isn’t my favourite of the Big Finish Doctors; the story synopsis sounded to me like just another example of the TARDIS crew entering an illusory realm or a delusional state, as has been done many times before (in, for example, Unregenerate!, Other Lives, Something Inside, The Mind’s Eye and Brotherhood of the Daleks, to name but a few); and I was more excited about the return of the Daleks in next month’s release.

Another problem with this production is that the end of Part 1, at which point a couple of characters appear unexpectedly changed, might be spoiled for some listeners by the fact that the actors do their jobs too well, sounding too different from their normal characters, so you might not realise who they are actually supposed to be.

However, Matthew Sweet’s plot builds momentum very nicely during Part 2, which concludes with a jolly exciting cliffhanger, and the rest of the production makes for nothing less than compelling listening.

McCoy starts off at the lighter end of his acting range, as a befuddled Doctor who has had key memories taken away from him, but who nevertheless relishes the challenge of solving the mystery of what happened to him. It is more than likely that the Time Lord’s more high-spirited mood owes something to the fact that he is not burdened by his usual baggage of knowledge and intricately planned schemes. Meanwhile, Ace (Sophie Aldred) and Hex (Philip Olivier) enjoy being the ones who are in the know for a change. Eventually, though, the Seventh Doctor’s Machiavellian manner emerges once again...

Populated by eccentrically named and eccentrically played characters such as “Ludo” Comfort (Paul Anthony-Barber), Lola Luna (Joan Walker) and Queenie Glasscock (Nadine Lewington), The Magic Mousetrap turns out to be a magical experience indeed.

In a departure from the extras usually found on Big Finish’s two-disc releases, interviews with the cast and crew can be heard only at the end of Disc 1. This is because Disc 2 concludes with the first of a 12-part Companion Chronicles tale, The Three Companions (written by Marc Platt), which lasts for about half the duration of a standard 25-minute episode. I can’t help thinking that this serial would have been better off at the end of Disc 1, because it means that the interviews need to remain spoiler-free. It’s a little early to judge The Three Companions yet, but intriguingly the companions in question are Polly Wright (Anneke Wills), a retired Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) and the short-lived audio assistant to the Fifth Doctor, Thomas Brewster (John Pickard). A neat companion piece.


Richard McGinlay

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