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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Monsters of Gokroth


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 849 3 (CD),
978 1 78178 850 9 (download)
Release Date: 31 May 2019

The people of Gokroth live in fear of the monsters in the forest – creatures with scales and fur, teeth and claws. But worse than these, perhaps, is the strange doctor who does unspeakable, unholy work in the high castle on the mountain… a doctor who is about to receive a visit from an off-worlder. Mags, formerly of the Psychic Circus, a native of the planet Vulpana, has arrived on Gokroth – with a monstrous secret of her own…

Mags, the werewolf played by Jessica Martin in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, is experiencing something of a renaissance. Last year she was reunited with the Seventh Doctor and Ace in a short comic strip, Hill of Beans, drawn by Martin herself. Now she is rejoining Sylvester McCoy’s Time Lord for a trilogy of audio adventures as his companion. It’s a good job that one of the other characters (Dominic Vulliamy as the villager Wilric) identifies her by name early on in the proceedings, though, as I don’t think I would have recognised Martin’s voice otherwise.

In my review of the graphic novel that includes Hill of Beans, I pointed out an altered premise: Mags’s metamorphoses now seemed to be triggered by anger, like the Hulk, rather than by moonlight, as before. As it happens, this apparent discontinuity fits in rather nicely with audio scriptwriter Matt Fitton’s plans. He has Mags fearing that she has lost control of the process, as the wolf has taken to emerging at the slightest provocation…

The werewolf isn’t the only monster we encounter in this story. Fitton references another classic Universal horror character as he gives us his interpretation of Frankenstein. Yes, I know Doctor Who has done Frankenstein before, in The Brain of Morbius, but this is a very different take. Whereas Condo was a typically slow-witted Igor-like servant to his scientist master, the misshapen Gor (Andrew Fettes) proves to be a rather intelligent lab assistant. And whereas Dr Mehendri Solon was a demented physician obsessed with assembling the perfect hybrid organism, Dr Maleeva (Victoria Yeates) is… well, the less I give away about her, the better.

There are also many strange, strange creatures in the forest, including a talking bear (Andrew Fettes again) and a  lizard monster (Abi Harris, who doubles as head villager Trella). Ultimately, the story is all about learning to overcome the instinctive dislike of the unlike and to accept those who are different from ourselves. Who are the real monsters, Fitton asks – those who are different, or the xenophobes who go to extreme lengths to protect their community from outsiders?

Despite such interesting ideas, The Monsters of Gokroth falls rather flat in its execution. There’s little I can put my finger on specifically to fault about the performances or the direction (debuting director Samuel Clemens brings in a lot of voices new to Big Finish), but the whole affair left me largely unmoved. Events unfold in a logical order, apart from one sudden change of heart during the third instalment. The cliffhangers that conclude Parts One and Two are both variations on the same old ‘cornered by monster’ scenario, while the end of Part Three is abrupt and lacking in drama. In the latter instance, a bit more ‘cliffhanger acting’ (as Peter Davison calls it) from Yeates might have ramped up the tension, or, if that were not possible, perhaps because the episode’s end point had been moved for timing reasons (as happened on the television show several times in the 1970s), surely some shock music could have been added.

The more memorable moments from this production include the fate of Gor and that of Mags. I had forgotten that she had never actually seen the TARDIS before, and her reaction to the Doctor’s incredible craft is delightful.

The Monsters of Gokroth is not the greatest audio in the galaxy, but it will be interesting to see how Mags develops as a companion.


Richard McGinlay

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