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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Elysian Blade


Author: David Bishop
Read by: Frazer Hines
Publisher: BBC Audio
RRP: £10.99 (CD), £5.00 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78753 334 9 (CD), 978 1 78753 333 2 (download)
Release Date: 07 February 2019

Fleeing from the rising tide on a distant planet, the Doctor and his friends are attacked by a swarm of what appear to be tiny insects. Wracked by hallucinations, Jamie is transported back to his home in the Highlands, whilst Victoria sees her late father. The travellers meet the survivors of Elysian Fields, a travelling hospital that offers patients a choice between the Blade of Longing and the Angel of Forgetting. When next the spaceship lands, the TARDIS crew are offered the chance of a lifetime. For Victoria, the promise of meeting her father again proves too alluring to resist. But what terrible price must she pay, along with anyone else who makes a pact with Elysian Fields…?

If you’ve ever heard one of Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles, then you’ll be familiar with the format of this release, because it is very similar: a companion of the Doctor, played by the original performer, narrates a brand-new audio book from that character’s point of view. In this instance, the companion is Jamie, and the actor who reprises the role is Frazer Hines. The only differences from The Companion Chronicles are the lack of any kind of frame narrative and the fact that The Elysian Blade comprises a single, 70-minute episode, without a cliffhanger at the halfway stage – though what happens to Victoria would have made a very gripping episode ending…

Over the years, Frazer Hines has refined his impersonation of Patrick Troughton to such an extent that, when he performs the Second Doctor’s lines, it’s almost as if the late leading man was in the room. Hines’s Victoria voice is also good, subtly capturing her more refined, often rather nervous tones without overdoing it. He also brings to life a small cast of supporting characters, including a pair of unpleasant villains, one guttural, the other nasal, but it’s the TARDIS team who really stand out.

Writer David Bishop makes good use of the regulars at his disposal, telling a story that could only have worked in this particular way with this particular set of companions: the orphaned Victoria and a veteran of Jacobite uprising. The puzzle and peril that await them as they step from the TARDIS also feels very much in keeping with the era of the Second Doctor. Meanwhile, the sound design by David Darlington conjures up just the kind of special sounds Brian Hodgson was creating for the show during the late 1960s.

Bishop’s narrative presents some unnerving mental images: a pitch-dark basement, mud huts eroded by coastal tides, the walking (and, in some cases, crawling) wounded seeking out… what? However, these are really just elaborate trimmings on what is essentially a variation on the old story of the Faustian bargain. The resolution owes a lot to a couple of far more recent adventures, from the tenures of the Ninth and Eleventh Doctors – though to name them would spoil the plot for you.

Lee Johnson’s cover design is highly detailed – in fact, it’s probably a little too detailed for a CD illustration, containing elements that you might only notice if you were to find a large version of the image online. These elements include a swarm of insects at the foot of the picture and a ‘memory’ behind Jamie’s shoulder. The latter is actually a squad of Redcoats shooting down a Highlander, lifted from a still from Jamie’s debut story, The Highlanders.

A peculiar collage of ingredients and styles from different periods of Doctor Who, The Elysian Blade is intriguing at times, but doesn’t quite cut it at others.


Richard McGinlay

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