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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Scent of Blood


Author: Andrew Lane
Read by: Dan Starkey
Publisher: BBC Audio
RRP: £10.99 (CD), £9.00 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78753 705 7 (CD),
978 1 78753 706 4 (download)
Release Date: 03 October 2019

In late 1890s Edinburgh, newspaper journalist James MacFarlane is on the trail of a supernatural entity. He’s joined in his investigations by a mysterious stranger, who calls himself the Doctor and professes to know a lot about vampires. As gangs of locals gather zombie-like on the city’s streets, James and the Doctor find themselves on a dangerous trail to find the truth. What links the secretive Lord and Lady Elmhurst to local events? What strange force is luring ordinary men and women to a local quarry? The Doctor soon realises that the answers lie in his own past…

Andrew Lane has carved out quite a niche for himself as an author of stories set in the 19th century. Since uniting the worlds of Who and Holmes in his 1994 novel, All-Consuming Fire, Lane has penned five audio adventures for Jago & Litefoot and eight Young Sherlock Holmes books. Now he returns to the Doctor Who universe while remaining firmly in the Victorian age, though he does step outside the customary confines of London: The Scent of Blood takes place in Edinburgh, which was previously the setting of the Young Sherlock Holmes novel Fire Storm.

This talking book also sees the return of a certain breed of undead blood-suckers, who have been revived several times in spin-off fiction since their appearance in State of Decay. Pursuing them is a suitably gothic version of the Doctor: the Eighth, as played by Paul McGann. It is a little strange, though essential to the plot, that the Time Lord should tell his one-off companion James MacFarlane as much as he does about his planet of origin and his people’s long history of battling the Great Vampires. However, this incarnation was just as much of a blabbermouth in the 1996 TV movie, so maybe the writer isn’t too wide of the mark! Lane also puts an intriguing spin on the familiar formula of Great Vampires versus Gallifreyan Bowships.

Despite the vampiric subject matter, perhaps the most uncanny aspect of this production is reader Dan Starkey’s impersonation of Paul McGann: deep, soulful and with just a hint of a Liverpudlian accent. When the Eighth Doctor first spoke, I wondered for a moment whether McGann had actually put in a surprise appearance – well, it wouldn’t be the first time he’d done that, would it? Starkey, who is best known for playing Strax and other Sontarans in Doctor Who, is a gifted voice artist, and his Lord and Lady Elmhurst are equally worthy of note. His lordship sounds rather like Peter Serafinowicz. Meanwhile, for the man’s wife, Starkey manages to do a female voice without it sounding silly – an ability that relatively few male narrators possess.

Unfortunately, David Darlington’s moody incidental music and sound design are sometimes so oppressive that they threaten to drown out the spoken words. Interestingly, though, the composer has provided a new version of the signature tune, just for this episode. Evidently BBC Audio didn’t fancy using (or couldn’t obtain the rights to) any of the various McGann themes from the TV movie or his Big Finish releases. Darlington’s arrangement is appropriately deep and percussive, like a heartbeat.

For fans of the Eighth Doctor, vampires or Victoriana, The Scent of Blood is an enjoyable trip down memory lane.


Richard McGinlay

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