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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
House of Blue Fire


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 580 8
Available 30 September 2011

Aquaphobia (noun): an abnormal fear of water, or drowning. Blattodephobia (noun): the morbid fear of cockroaches. Catoptrophobia (noun): a fear of mirrors, or seeing one’s own reflection. There’s a whole ABC of horrors at Bluefire House - as four young people, drawn together to this tumbledown hotel at the edge of nowhere, are about to discover. But whatever the ancient and foul thing that has emerged from the wilderness to drag them here, speaking of it will only strengthen it. The Doctor alone knows what lurks at the heart of Bluefire House. But the monster of his childhood dreams is coming - the Mi’en Kalarash is coming. Just this once, the Doctor is afraid...


Another double CD, another spoiler alert! As though reflecting the physical division of two discs in its art form, this story, even more than its predecessor The Doomsday Quatrain, is a game of two halves. As with the previous serial, there’s a game-changing cliffhanger halfway through House of Blue Fire, which may cause some disappointment as certain assumptions made about events so far prove to be illusory. This is in fact the third release in a row to deal with some kind of virtual reality, which also featured prominently in A Most Excellent Match in the anthology Recorded Time and Other Stories. However, on this occasion the difference between the first and second halves is far more striking, owing to the dramatic change of location.

The strange setting of Bluefire House is particularly effective during the first episode, a real piece of mystery writing by Mark Morris in which the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) barely appears. The main characters are four strangers, principally Amy Pemberton as Number 18 and Miranda Keeling as Number 5, all of whom have lost their memories, and all of whom suffer from some kind of phobia. Memory loss was also recently covered in Recorded Time, in the episode Question Marks (here, instead of nicknames such as “Question Marks”, the characters adopt the room numbers they have each been assigned within this hair-raising hotel), but the absence of the Time Lord makes their situation all the more unnerving. Kudos to Pemberton and Keeling for carrying the episode mostly by themselves - though Number 5’s attitude does occasionally sound slightly like Ace.

The creepy old house reminded me a little of Ghost Light, with its sonorously chiming clock, its rumbling lift heading to who knows where, and the Doctor’s reference to a nice restaurant he knows in the Khyber Pass. Unfortunately, Big Finish once again coincidentally has a similar idea to the producers of the new television series, so this “hotel of fears” bears comparison with the setting of The God Complex. However, if anyone were lucky enough to hear this audio drama before having seen that television episode, that could work rather well, because in this story fear really is the enemy, whereas in The God Complex that’s just what we’re supposed to think.

The second disc is less successful, but it remains more satisfying than The Doomsday Quatrain, despite a descent into impenetrable technobabble and the disappointment of effectively writing off the first two episodes - something that is partly rectified by a return trip to the hotel during Part Four. McCoy stumbles on his delivery of a couple of lines, inserting confusing pauses such as: “No, I won’t... let you in.” Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish Pemberton’s voice from that of her co-star Lizzy Watts (as Eve Pritchard). However, the main guest star Timothy West (as Soames) is always worth listening to.

While I didn’t exactly get on with the second half of this serial like a house on fire, on the whole House of Blue Fire is an intriguing construction.


Richard McGinlay

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