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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Ghost Walk


Starring: Peter Davison
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 819 6 (CD), 978 1 78178 820 2 (download)
Release Date: 31 March 2018

This is a city of ghosts, and no one knows them better than Leanne. Twice a night she leads parties of tourists to visit the most haunted sites – the Hanging Yard, the Witch Pool, the Screaming House… and, of course, the Catacombs. Leanne’s realised that the ghosts of the city are real. Something’s lurking in the Catacombs – an ancient force that has been growing in the darkness for centuries. The mighty Sabaoth is returning, and he must be stopped before he devours the world. Leanne knows this, because a ghost told her… a ghost called the Doctor…

To misquote the opening narration of The Outer Limits, there is nothing wrong with your audio equipment. Do not attempt to adjust the playlist… However, as you allow yourself to be taken on this Ghost Walk, you might initially wonder whether your playback device is malfunctioning. The dramatic opening scene lasts for more than seven minutes before we hear anything from the Doctor (Peter Davison) or his companions, or even the theme music, as writer James Goss sets up a mystery surrounding tour guide Leanne (Fenella Woolgar, best known to Doctor Who fans for playing Agatha Christie in The Unicorn and the Wasp).

The tactic pays off, Goss has us hooked, but then the naughty writer immediately flashes us back to an earlier point in time, where the TARDIS has made an emergency landing. The travellers are forced to split up during the course of the first episode, after which the second and third instalments focus on different members of the crew. Though the Doctor’s present-day interaction with Leanne remains a recurring thread throughout the narrative, much of Part Two is devoted to Nyssa and Adric’s misadventures in history. Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) gets mistaken for a witch, while Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) lands himself in trouble after stealing some food – which is also what happened to him when he was first introduced into the show in Full Circle, though on this occasion he is not after some riverfruit but a loaf of bread. Part Three then cuts to the Time Lord and Tegan’s (Janet Fielding) perils in the past. Each cliffhanger puts a different crew member (or two in the case of the second episode) in jeopardy, with first the Doctor, then Nyssa and Adric, and finally Tegan facing seemingly inescapable situations.

Benji Clifford’s incidental music sometimes seems a little too modern for the era being evoked (Season 19, 1982), with some of his strings and percussion coming across more like late Eighties Mark Ayres, though there are noticeable Paddy Kingsland flourishes and hints of John Carpenter’s early synthesised scores.

One problem with conveying spooky stories on audio is that the writer is often left with little choice but to have the characters describing to others, or themselves, the strange events that are going on around them – “Something touched my hand,” that kind of thing. This was true of a much earlier Fifth Doctor audio drama, Winter for the Adept (which I reviewed back in my DreamWatch days), and it’s true of Ghost Walk. However, it is more forgivable when protagonists find themselves literally in the dark, as happens here when Adric drops his torch.

Fortunately, this tale isn’t just about ghosts and creating an atmosphere of terror. There’s love interest, too – between Nyssa and a clergyman (Sacha Dhawan, who played Waris Hussein in An Adventure in Space and Time) who takes care of her when she finds herself lost in a strange time. There’s humour – in the Doctor’s relationship with Leanne, as well as in Adric’s exasperation at his arrest and prosecution. And there’s a complex collection of knotty problems, involving the web of time and the very lives of the TARDIS crew, which Goss manages to tie up at the end in a way that restores order and satisfies the listener without seeming too convenient or contrived.

Woolgar and Dhawan are very likeable in their roles, while Carolyn Seymour (alias Abby Grant in Survivors) and Stephen Greif (the original Travis in Blake’s 7) are intentionally quite the opposite. Seymour plays Father Matthew’s hostile housekeeper Mrs Stubbs with bitter relish, while Greif does what he does best, giving a diabolically deep and evil voice to the monstrous entity Sabaoth.

With so many talented hands on deck, Ghost Walk has more than a ghost of a chance of entertaining you.


Richard McGinlay

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