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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Muse of Fire


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 839 4 (CD)
Release Date: 31 January 2019

Oooh la la! It’s been a long time coming, but the Doctor is about to be reunited with that trans-temporal adventuress Iris Wildthyme! They’re both in 1920s Paris and everyone’s flocking to Iris’s salon – including aspiring American poet Kevin Archer and inspiring life model Thomas Hector Schofield. But wait…! What’s that noise…? Thud, thud, thud…! It’s the soft, approaching feet of a small and acerbic art critic called Panda…!

Taking a brief break from trilogies, the monthly range gives us a one-off release featuring the return of Katy Manning as Iris Wildthyme.

Having previously crossed paths with numerous incarnations of the Doctor, including the Fifth in Excelis Dawns and the Sixth in The Wormery, it’s high time that Iris shared an adventure with the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy). After all, the pair of them have much in common, being diminutive in stature and seemingly, often deceptively, scatterbrained. However, it may be partly because of those similarities that they really don’t get along in Muse of Fire. They don’t actually come face to face until the third episode (the Doctor and Ace encounter Panda first), but by then the battle lines have already been drawn (in a somewhat underwhelming ‘cliffhanger’) as far as the Time Lord is concerned.

It’s always good to hear Katy Manning playing the delightfully dotty Iris, but perhaps it’s an even greater pleasure to experience the pompous Panda (David Benson) as a stuffy art critic.

Paul Magrs’s story covers some of the same ground as his Demon of Paris, being set in the same city and concerning troubled artists and their muses. Like Mrs Wibbsey before him, Hex (Philip Olivier) briefly becomes an unlikely model, much to the amusement of Ace (Sophie Aldred) – this tale takes place fairly early on in Ace and Hex’s travels together, before things got complicated between them. The period, however, is a different one – thirty years later, during Les Années Folles of the 1920s – and so are the artistic movements involved. I don’t know much about art, but even I was able to grasp the references to avant-garde practitioners such as Pablo Picasso (there’s an alien, played by Christine Kavanagh, who actually looks like one of his cubist paintings) and Salvador Dalí (he of the lobster telephone).

Benji Clifford’s score combines archetypal French accordions with Keff McCulloch-style percussion, while Daniel Burnett’s sound design for Dora Muse’s extraterrestrial technology has a beautiful, musical quality of its own. Curiously, there is no isolated music track at the end of Disc One, though we do get to hear the full McCoy-era opening theme at the beginning of each episode (this is usually edited down for Big Finish releases).

I’m rather disappointed in the Doctor, as I had guessed the truth of the matter long before he did. However, since this story is all about the dire consequences of a reviewer issuing scathing write-ups, I think I’d better watch what I say!


Richard McGinlay

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