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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Devil in the Mist


Starring: Peter Davison
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 843 1 (CD)
Release Date: 28 February 2019

The TARDIS deposits the Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and their new android ally Kamelion aboard a prison ship. A ship with a crew of hippos. A ship with just one prisoner: Nustanu, the last warlord of the Zamglitti – monstrous, mind-bending mimics who are able to turn themselves into mist. A ship that’s in trouble, and about to make a crash-landing… On a planet of mists…

Back in 1983, the 13-year-old me was terribly confused when the recently introduced robot companion Kamelion was absent from The Five Doctors. At the time, I didn’t have a video recording to check, but I could have sworn that the metamorphic mechanism had joined the TARDIS crew at the end of The King’s Demons. Had I been mistaken? Little did I realise that a cameo appearance in The Awakening had been recorded to address the matter of the robot’s whereabouts, but it was cut for time reasons. I would have to wait until Planet of Fire, several serials later, to catch up with Kamelion – at which point, he was promptly written out of the series. If only there had been stories like Devil in the Mist, the first in a trilogy of tales featuring the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Turlough and Kamelion, back in 1983.

Something else that I was unaware of at the time was the reason for Kamelion’s absence: the computer-controlled prop was extremely difficult to operate. There are no such issues with an audio drama, so writer Cavan Scott provides the robot with a prominent and active role in the adventure. Indeed, with no visual effects budget to worry about, Scott also gives us two different types of intelligent alien – the hippo-like Harrigain (played in suitably larger-than-life fashion by Anjella Mackintosh and John Voce) and the gaseous Nustanu (Simon Slater, channelling Hannibal Lecter) – and places his protagonists in exciting scenes taking on dangerous rapids, a sheer rock face and ferocious native fauna. The guest cast is minimal, but that isn’t a problem here, partly because the TARDIS crew are so numerous.

Gerald Flood, the original voice of Kamelion, died in 1989. Big Finish has circumvented its usual policy of not recasting the roles of deceased or otherwise unavailable actors in the Doctor Who main range. After all, it’s not as if the android was ever played by just a single artist, as he would take on the voices of the people he was impersonating (such as the Doctor, the Master, and Peri’s stepfather Howard Foster). The new voice of Kamelion is Jon Culshaw – the irony of hiring a noted impressionist to play a being with a gift for mimicry is not lost on the production team, as is revealed in 15 minutes of interviews at the end of Disc Two. Culshaw’s Kamelion sounds more downbeat than Flood’s did at the end of The King’s Demons, which this story follows, but is closer to the more subdued machine of Planet of Fire. Culshaw explains that Flood’s initial Kamelion voice was really just an extension of the fruity tones he had used for the android’s King John persona. He takes a hint of that, and develops it into something more robotic.

Meanwhile, the writer fleshes out Kamelion’s character from what little evidence the television show offered. The android tries to be helpful, but his efforts sometimes backfire. He is influenced by the personalities of those around him – the stronger the personality, the stronger the influence. One can already see why the Doctor might decide, not too far down the line, that it would be safer for all concerned if Kamelion were to remain inside the TARDIS…

Scott’s plot borrows a few elements from Planet of Fire, and I don’t just mean in terms of Kamelion’s suggestibility. His characters are also rather slow to connect the planet’s foggy atmosphere with the insubstantial Nustanu – a link that has already been made abundantly clear to the listener in the back-cover blurb. However, the writer has plenty of twists up his sleeve, and things metamorphose nicely in the end.

Devil in the Mist is not to be missed.


Richard McGinlay

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