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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Winged Coven


Author: Paul Magrs
Read by: Susan Jameson
Publisher: BBC Audio
RRP: £10.99 (CD), £5.00 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78753 443 8 (CD), 978 1 78753 444 5 (download)
Release Date: 04 April 2019

When the Doctor returns to Nest Cottage, in the village of Hexford, England, he finds strange things afoot in the local woods. Together with the redoubtable Mrs Wibbsey, he discovers the local postmistress in an almost desiccated state, and witnesses sinister behaviour at the local mini-mart. The old team investigate a new shop that has opened in the village, run by the glamorously beguiling Camilla Cookson. Soon they realise that a secret society has formed in Hexford under their very noses. But what role has Mrs Wibbsey herself unwittingly played in all of this? It may be time for a few confessions to be heard. Recruiting Mike Yates, Tish Madoc and Deirdre Whatsit to the cause, the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey set out to penetrate the winged coven – but what they discover at its heart is the greatest horror of all…

After participating in three seasons of original adventures written by Paul Magrs for BBC Audio between 2009 and 2011, Tom Baker finally agreed to work with Big Finish Productions. He’s done so ever since. That seemed to spell the end for the Nest Cottage chronicles… until the Fourth Doctor and his housekeeper Mrs Wibbsey were reunited in 2018 in The Thing from the Sea, an audio book written by Magrs and read by Mrs Wibbsey actress Susan Jameson. Now they’re back again, and this time they’ve also returned to the village of Hexford (The Thing from the Sea took place in 18th-century Italy) and with Mike Yates in tow. Don’t worry if you’re unfamiliar with Hexford and Nest Cottage, because a pre-titles prologue tells you all you need to know.

The Winged Coven is a first-person narrative, told from the point of view of Mrs Wibbsey. Jameson remains in character throughout the reading, her tone of voice amply conveying the housekeeper’s disdain for Hexford’s new housing estate and mini-mart, the political divisions between the villagers (which may be a reference to the polarising effect of Brexit) and Mike’s housemates. Mike himself doesn’t have an awful lot to say after a certain point in the story, for reasons that I won’t give away, but Jameson does a surprisingly good imitation of Tom Baker’s booming tones and elongated vowels when the Doctor turns up following a lengthy absence.

The plot involves Magrs’ customary mixture of the madcap and the macabre, with blood, a body encased in what looks like a giant cocoon, prisoners being fattened up like Hansel and Gretel, and eccentric ladies with names like Camilla Cookson and Deirdre Whatsit. Having recently reviewed the audio book of Tom Baker’s Scratchman, I now realise how in tune Magrs is and has always been with the dark and dotty imagination of the Fourth Doctor himself – the entire Nest Cottage saga could have been written by Baker.

After a lot of dramatic build-up, Hexford’s problems are finally sorted out with the Doctor’s use of a convenient gadget, a deus ex machina ending that is somewhat forgivable for a couple of reasons. First of all, it was the misuse of other devices from the Doctor’s collection that contributed to the difficulties in the first place. Secondly, the Time Lord gives his gadget the same name as an iconic piece of late 1970s Doctor Who merchandise!

It has been pleasant to revisit Hexford, and I hope that Magrs and BBC Audio will allow us to return again in the not too distant future. Perhaps Richard Franklin could narrate the Nest – sorry, next – one.


Richard McGinlay

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