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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Doomsday Quatrain


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 579 2
Available 30 September 2011

When the river is gone, ships shall sail in the sky, monsters bring fire from the heavens. All will fall into a grey and endless sea, and Doomsday has come.” Florence, the 16th century. No one paid much attention to the prophecies of the so-called seer Michel de Nostradame, otherwise known as Nostradamus - until the canals of Venice dried, until the soothsayer’s sayings started coming true... Because Master Nostradamus is right, in all respects. The end of the world is nigh. The ships are coming. The monsters are coming. The fire is coming. There’s only one thing he didn’t see coming, in fact: the sudden apparition of a certain strange Doctor, in his even stranger TARDIS. Today, the Earth dies screaming, and all the Doctor can do is watch...


And no, I don’t mean Nostradamus’s predictions! I don’t think they ever carried a spoiler alert - though it’s an amusing thought that only occurred to me as I typed the above. No, my spoiler warning is because it is almost impossible to write about The Doomsday Quatrain without discussing the game-changing twist that occurs towards the end of Part Two of this four-part adventure.

I was intrigued but a little disappointed to discover that the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) had not in fact landed in 16th-century Florence but in a simulation of it, populated by artificial humans, on an alien planet. My dissatisfaction was partly due to the fact that a meeting between the Time Lord and the real Nostradamus has great potential in itself, which might have proven more interesting, and partly due to a thematic similarity to The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People. In that serial, too, the Doctor defends the civil liberties of synthetic life forms created from malleable matter - a similar cause that of holographic rights, championed by that other Doctor in Star Trek: Voyager.

Another disappointment for me is that the end of Part Two isn’t really a cliffhanger. If it had ended 20 seconds sooner, it could have been, and it’s not as if the episode runs short.

Meanwhile, the holographically disguised Poldigons are reminiscent of the similarly camouflaged Vinvocci in The End of Time - though to be fair that’s mainly because their skin colour is such a distinguishing feature. The Vinvocci are a vivid green, whereas much is made in dialogue about the fact that the Poldigons are blue. In fairness, electronic disguises are nothing new in Doctor Who: we’ve had perception filters aplenty in the new television series, and holo-projectors in The New Adventures before that.

In common with several recent television seasons, the Time Lord receives a worrying prediction, which leads into the concluding story of the current trilogy, the simultaneous release of House of Blue Fire...

As you may have guessed by all my comparisons, I’m struggling to think of things to say about this story. The interviewees seem to have the same trouble during the 15 minutes of extras at the end of Disc Two, which are a bit nothingy. Big Finish’s production values are up to their usual standards. The performances are good, especially the passionate turns by David Schofield as Nostradamus and Caroline Keiff as Researcher Garilund, and Sylvester McCoy, who gets to do exciting things with the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. The plot, by Who newcomers Emma Beeby and Gordon Rennie, is OK but hardly earth-shattering (despite Nostradamus’s predictions).

Disc One also includes a nine-minute suite of Andy Hardwick’s incidental music.

I predict that you won’t exactly fall in love with The Doomsday Quatrain, but you won’t doom it to a grey and endless sea of loathing either.


Richard McGinlay

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