Click here to return to the main site.

Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Demon Quest
The Complete Series


Starring: Tom Baker
RRP: £50.00, US $74.95
ISBN: 978 1 60283 958 8
Available 06 October 2011

The Doctor’s return to Nest Cottage lands him in trouble when a key component from the TARDIS disappears. Mrs Wibbsey is inadvertently responsible, but all she can offer in recompense is a bag containing four curious objects. It seems that each one is a clue, and the beginning of a chase through time. In ancient Sussex, they are apprehended by primitive tribesfolk and mistaken for wizards. Can the revered goddess Wibbsentia get them out of hot water? Who is the fearful wizard in the neighbouring village, and why is the countryside littered with bodies? The Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey are about to discover that all is not right with history...

Like its predecessor, Hornets’ Nest, Demon Quest is a five-disc saga of linked stories written by Paul Magrs. Like Hornets’ Nest, the individual CDs are now being reissued as a boxed set.

You don’t need to have heard Hornets’ Nest in order to follow the plot, as the Doctor (Tom Baker) explains all you need to know in a monologue that opens the first instalment, The Relics of Time. This is pleasantly reminiscent of the beginning of The Pescatons, the first-ever commercially released Doctor Who audio-exclusive adventure, which similarly starred Baker. For those of you who have heard Hornets’ Nest, all the familiar friends return: Nest Cottage, Mrs Wibbsey (Susan Jameson) and Mike Yates (Richard Franklin).

Though Yates makes only a cameo appearance in this instalment, Mrs Wibbsey is elevated to the status of full-fledged companion, as she accompanies the Doctor in the TARDIS, which is only able to travel through time, after she inadvertently sells a vital component at a bring-and-buy sale. Jameson is a good foil for Baker, who had wanted an older, more eccentric female (such as Sylvia Coleridge from The Seeds of Doom or Beatrix Lehmann from The Stones of Blood) as a companion during his time on the television show.

An improvement upon Hornets’ Nest is the lack of past-tense narration. There is still some of it, but the majority of the scenes in The Relics of Time comprise dialogue between two or more of the cast, which also includes Nigel Anthony as the mysterious wizard, and Rupert Holliday Evans and Kate Sachs as ancient British warriors. All in all, this feels more like an audio drama than a talking book.

This time around, the linking theme of the saga is the quest to track down the TARDIS’s missing spatial geometer (one small part of which is recovered during each instalment), using four strange relics as clues for the ship to home in on. It’s a similar concept to the Key to Time series, an era that is further evoked by a brief reference to K-9. Unfortunately, the set-up for the premise, involving the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey in the present day, is more interesting than their eventual journey to Roman times.

However, as the quest continues, other destinations prove more intriguing...



Someone has painted the Doctor’s likeness into a famous poster by the artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, leading the Time Lord and Mrs Wibbsey to Paris in the 1890s. There the streets are thronged with artists and their muses - ladies of the night such as a young girl called La Charlotte. However, a murderer is also at large, and Lautrec’s name is whispered with fear and suspicion. As they become immersed in the delights of the Moulin Rouge and the shadows of Montmartre Cemetery, the time travellers gradually uncover the gruesome truth about the missing women of Paris. They also realise that someone has been expecting them...

The Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey encounter another figure from history in the second instalment, The Demon of Paris, in the shape of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (Mark Meadows). The writer delves into Lautrec’s tortured soul in much the same way that Richard Curtis explored Vincent van Gogh’s inner demons in Vincent and the Doctor.

This time Jameson rather than Baker carries out the narration duties, though there are still plenty of dialogue scenes between the regular and guest cast, which also includes Rowena Cooper as Lautrec’s concierge and Finty Williams as his former muse, La Charlotte. We experience Paris through Mrs Wibbsey’s eyes as she departs England’s shores for perhaps the first time (as the TARDIS is unable to move through space, she and the Doctor travel to France by boat and train), tentatively tries coq au vin, takes in the sights and sounds of the city, briefly becomes Lautrec’s model, and faces mortal peril.

The historical period is practically the same as that of The Talons of Weng-Chiang, and the plot covers some of the same ground, as “ladies of the night” fall victim to a mysterious killer that drains them of their life essence. However, the subject matter is even less suitable for small children than Talons, containing vivid descriptions of some of the attack victims’ injuries and a manic assault upon the breasts of the women painted on Lautrec’s canvasses.

There are some variable accents, and the villain’s feeble motive is a real cop-out (otherwise I might have given this instalment 8 out of 10). Even so, The Demon of Paris is an engaging story and an intriguing work of art.



In the icy wastes of the Murgin Pass, the Doctor and Mike Yates take refuge in a remote lodge alongside Albert Tiermann, storyteller to the king. But the owner’s hospitality is repaid with a grisly attack, and suddenly death is amongst the small party. What is the significance of a book of fairy tales, one of which prophesies the Doctor and Mike’s encounter with an Ice Queen monster? What long-held secret is Albert Tiermann holding back? And what dark figure stalks the snowy mountainside? The answers to these questions add up to a terrifying encounter with a strangely familiar foe...

There is a distinct artistic theme running through this box set, particularly in the cover designs of the individual CDs. The Relics of Time features a Roman-style mosaic, with a cover inspired by the opening titles of I, Claudius. The Demon of Paris pays homage to Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters of the French cabaret performer and nightclub owner Aristide Bruant, whose hat and scarf contributed to James Acheson’s original design for the Fourth Doctor’s costume on the TV show. The third story, A Shard of Ice, is inspired by the genre of fairy tale, in particular Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, and once again the art form under discussion is represented by the disc’s front cover, which resembles a picture from a children’s storybook. In another cunning television connection, this is illustrated by former Doctor Who costume designer June Hudson, who provided Baker’s revamped outfit for Season 18.

Once again, the packaging design team have also selected an appropriate image of Baker to furnish the inner sleeve. This time it’s the Doctor covered in snow in The Ribos Operation.

In this story, the Doctor is accompanied by Mike Yates, though Susan Jameson also makes a cameo appearance as Mrs Wibbsey. However, the narration duties are not carried out by a member of the regular cast, but placed in the capable hands of Samuel West, who brings great gravitas to the character of the troubled storyteller Albert Tiermann. The cast also includes Jan Francis, who is all but unrecognisable as the Ice Queen.

As the middle part of the five, A Shard of Ice unfortunately fails to set itself apart as a story in its own right. By now we are fully expecting the Ice Queen to have a connection with the shape-shifting demon encountered in the previous two instalments, especially when the CD’s back-cover blurb refers to “a strangely familiar foe”, making this wintry tale a surprise-free zone. The revelation of the villain’s plans for the Time Lord seems nonsensical: why didn’t she/he/it reveal them on the either of the last two occasions they have met? Though Magrs’s plot seems to be about to depart in an interesting new direction towards the end of the narrative, the Doctor escapes his fate with ludicrous ease.

A Shard of Ice left me cold, and so it gets a frosty reception from me.



Two things arrive on the same night in Central Park, New York, 1976. The first is a fireball from space, bringing a new identity for one Alice Trefusis. The second is the TARDIS, carrying the Doctor and his friends on the trail of an unusual comic book cover. The Doctor’s strength is sapped - but what could cause such a malaise? As he and Mike are mixed up with the police and then taken on an aerial ride over the city, Mrs Wibbsey comes face to face with the legendary Talkies film star Mimsy Loyne. All the while, long multicoloured scarves and floppy felt hats are climbing the stairs of the Dakota Building...

Starfall, the fourth story in the series, tackles an art form that is much dearer to my heart: the comic strip, specifically American comic books featuring costumed superheroes. The writer tips his hat to the medium in a number of ways. The circumstances leading to Alice’s (Laurel Lefkow) new identity as Ms Starfall are a confluence of elements from the origin stories of various heroes from the pages of DC and Marvel Comics. Her boyfriend, Buddy (Trevor White), narrates the tale in terms of comic-strip panels and adopts former Marvel president Stan Lee’s favourite phrase, “true believer”. We also hear a catch phrase from DC’s Superman family of titles, “Is it a bird? Is it a plane?”, while the Doctor encounters a kind of Time Lord Kryptonite. The homage continues in the mock editorial that appears in the CD sleeve, which includes references to DC’s ’Mazing Man (though it’s possible that Magrs is unaware that there really was a character of that name) and Shazam!

Doctor Who is, of course, no stranger to comic strips, having appeared in the medium for almost as long as it has been on TV. The CD’s cover and title are particularly redolent of the early days of the Marvel UK strip in Doctor Who Weekly and Monthly, when it was drawn by Dave Gibbons and featured stories such as The Star Beast and Stars Fell on Stockbridge.

Lorelei King, who has appeared in numerous superhero audio adaptations by Dirk Maggs, plays the faded movie star Mimsy Loyne. This is ironic given that the younger Lefkow, who is currently charting a similar career path as an American actress based in the UK, plays the kind of character that King might have done in days gone by. Magrs’s habit of imbuing the Fourth Doctor with aspects of Baker’s real-life personality, such as his eye for the ladies, pays off ingeniously when it appears as though the Doctor and Mimsy may once have had a relationship...

As usual, the story doesn’t advance the box set’s overall plot arc very much, though it does end with an exciting development that is likely to make you reach for the final instalment, Sepulchre, as quickly as possible.

All in all, true believer, I truly believe that Starfall is my favourite episode of Demon Quest.



Following the revelation of one final clue, the TARDIS arrives on Sepulchre, and the Doctor and Mike Yates find themselves in an old, dark house. Who awaits the two men in this strange place? What plans have been laid for their arrival? They soon discover from their demonic host - and his housekeeper, Mrs Wibbsey - that this is the culmination of a terrible, grand plan... one with the Doctor at its very centre... one from which he may never escape. As the Atlas of All Time unfolds, the odds seem to be stacked against the three friends. Which of them will fall before the night is out...?

And so another Paul Magrs / Tom Baker mini-series comes to an end.

There has been some criticism of this series and its predecessor for not being sufficiently representative of the Fourth Doctor’s television adventures. Instead of the Doctor whizzing around in his TARDIS to distant planets accompanied by his more familiar companions, such as Leela or Romana (both of whom will soon accompany him in full-cast adventures from Big Finish), he has been largely earthbound, hanging around Nest Cottage or travelling through Earth’s history with his new team of Mike Yates and Mrs Wibbsey. However, with this instalment the continued involvement of the “Nest Cottage gang” pays off handsomely, though some listeners may be disappointed by all the references to Hornets’ Nest.

There’s a relatively small cast this time. Joining Baker, Franklin (who also narrates) and Jameson are Nigel Anthony as the Host and Carole Boyd in a bit part as an old friend... and that’s it. However, in this instance the smaller complement of characters allows for a more tightly focused drama than the more rambling nature of preceding episodes. The sense of threat to the lives of the regulars - especially Mrs Wibbsey, who has never appeared in Doctor Who outside of this audio strand - feels greater than ever before.

However, Magrs and AudioGO have not done with the Fourth Doctor yet. The story ends on a cliffhanger, leading into the third series, Serpent Crest, which is currently under way as monthly releases.

Overall, I have found Demon Quest to be a more involving affair than Hornets’ Nest, despite its more tenuous linking theme. Its emphasis on multi-cast audio drama rather than past-tense narration makes a big difference (one that is thankfully developed further in Serpent Crest). As Harry Hill might once have put it: Hornets’ Nest... Demon Quest... that’s how I tell them apart.


Richard McGinlay

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£34.06 (
£35.49 (
£45.00 (
£35.00 (
£63.99 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.