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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Serpent Crest
The Broken Crown


Starring: Tom Baker
RRP: £10.20, US $24.95
ISBN: 978 1 4084 6886 9
Available 06 October 2011

The year is 1861, and the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey find themselves in the right place at the wrong time. At the rectory they encounter the ill-tempered Reverend Dobbs and his young ward Andrew, whose paper faces hide whatever horrors lie beneath. Tutoring him is one Mr Bewley, whom Mrs Wibbsey is startled to recognise. In Hexford Woods, the Doctor uncovers a secret which Andrew and his friends have been keeping. As the truth begins to emerge about the rectory’s occupants, it also becomes clear why so many people have been disappearing from the village. Unless the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey can help, the whole community will soon be terrorised by a child’s imagination...

With each passing instalment of these adventures by Paul Magrs, Tom Baker sounds more like the Fourth Doctor of old - the one we saw on TV, rather than a version largely informed by the actor’s real-life eccentricities. I don’t know whether this shift springs primarily from the writing, perhaps with knowledge that more conventional adventures for the Fourth Doctor are on their way courtesy of Big Finish, or from Baker growing more comfortable with returning to the role. Maybe it’s a bit of both. For whatever reason, the Doctor in The Broken Crown is just as capable of issuing grave warnings of dire peril as he is of being wacky. Oh, he still is wacky a lot of the time - his Doctor often was - but lines like “Just a little wibbsey, Mrs Woozy” seem more in character.

The dire peril in question is provided by the egg depicted on the front cover. There are shades of The Lord of the Rings and especially The League of Gentlemen as Andrew (Guy Harvey) and his friends (Charlie Mitchell as Jake and Elinor Coleman as Sally) refer to the object as “the precious thing” (and Andrew isn’t even local!). The young cast are impressive, though 14-year-old Harvey occasionally stumbles slightly with his delivery. Despite their reverence for the artefact, it is in fact very dangerous - something of a curate’s egg then!

Talking of clerics, who better to play the menacing Reverend Dobbs than the Demon Headmaster himself? Terrence Hardiman, who was rather underused in The Beast Below, gets a proper supporting role here.

I was about halfway through listening to this audio drama (and it is a full-cast drama, with just a few bits of narration by Andrew) when I realised that I hadn’t yet read the back-cover blurb. In the end I’m glad I hadn’t, because the identities of Andrew and “the precious thing” (which I initially thought might be the crown in the title), and the question of what is wrong with Andrew’s face, remained more of a mystery to me than they would otherwise have been.

A real change of pace from Tsar Wars (let’s say leisurely rather than slow), The Broken Crown ends on a cliffhanger that will leave you eager for the next instalment, Aladdin Time, to come tumbling after.


Richard McGinlay

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