16 February 2018

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: James Goss

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: February 2018

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online


"This is a city of ghosts and no-one knows them better than Leanne. Twice a night she leads tourists to visit the most haunted sites - the Hanging Yard, the Witch Pool, the Screaming House, and, of course, the Catacombs.

Leanne’s realised the ghosts of the city are real. Something’s lurking in the Catacombs - an ancient force that has been growing in the darkness for centuries. Sabaoth is returning and they must be stopped before they devour the world. Leanne knows this, because a ghost told her."

I don't know who it was that made everyone decide the Fifth Doctor should be funny and find himself in comedies, but I suspect it was Steven Moffat. When Time Crash aired, that mix of old and new Who felt utterly new and alien. In many ways, so did the Fifth Doctor. He cracks gags here and seems a bit peeved off. He has far more in common with the Sixth Doctor than the Fifth Doctor we originally saw on our screens, but that's okay. It's not as if the Sixth Doctor we've had from Big Finish is much like the one on screen at times.

It cemented the Fifth Doctor's fate though, and his comedy efforts in audio have been on the up ever since. It feels especially ironic given John Nathan-Turrner's firm stamping out of humour during his era, but it's a welcome shift as Peter Davison has taken to it like a duck to water.


Ghost Walk is written by James Goss. Goss and Doctor Who are two things which compliment each other perfectly. His list of successes with Who and its assorted spin-offs is quite frankly alarming: City of Death and The Pirate Planet; The Art of Death and Dead AirThe Scorchies and Asking for a FriendWorld Enough and Time and Mask of Tragedy. All this, and no mention of The Blood Cell or What She Does Next Will Astound You or The Sky Man. And there’s far more on top of all this. That's one hell of a hit rate!


Ghost Walk is the latest triumph for Goss: because I'm not going to play it coy and keep you in suspense until the end. This is another brilliant story by a brilliant writer.


As alluded to earlier, it's a funny play. It's also far more than just funny though; it's a play about ghosts and ordinary people being put in extraordinary circumstances, and it's one that tries to scare you.


Horror and the Fifth Doctor? Other unfamiliar bedfellows. Just as the Fifth Doctor of new is unlike the Fifth Doctor of old, so this story feels pretty alien to the original series, something remarked upon in the extras. This is completely true. Ghost Walk, with its talk of fixed points and e-mails, its time travel-heavy twists and turns, its humour, and its pre-credits teaser is straight out of the series post-2005, but you know what? That's no bad thing. This is the play that proves that so.


Last month, Kingdom of Lies kickstarted this new trilogy of Fifth Doctor plays and I mentioned there that Adric and Matthew Waterhouse were especially well suited to comedy, and that's the case here again. His comments on quantum states and Australia had me snorting, and the Fifth Doctor patiently waiting for the end of the world is beautifully observed, too. Tegan and her, at times, fractious relationship with everyone else is written for with deft skill, too, but when the drama really needs it, Janet Fielding gives us one hell of a performance. The same is true for Sarah Sutton as Nyssa. Nyssa has a far straighter role in this play than the other TARDIS companions, but it works well. It has echoes of The Curse of Peladon and Jo and the King about it, something cemented by Sacha Dhawan sounding eerily like David Troughton at times. It works though, despite the brevity of time in which to develop any relationship.


I've got this far and not mentioned Fenella Woolgar as Leanne yet, which is remarkable as she is front and centre of much of the play and carries a lot of the plot with seeming effortlessness. The support from John Banks as rival ghost walk host Louie is great as well, Goss once again showing a great ear for comedy and naturalistic relationships and patter with his dialogue.


Another thing to note is the sound design, which feels pleasingly ambitious with wide stereo swoops as people move from left to right, and some nice effects as time goes all awry later on. Barnaby Edwards' direction is perfect throughout, too. I noted last month that he really gets comedy and that assertion is only strengthened here.


I honestly don't think a foot is put wrong in Ghost Walk. I have often observed that Big Finish continually use the same writers over and over and over and over again with predictably diminishing returns, even when they're great writers. Goss seems to be immune to this though. I suspect it's because he is so busy elsewhere, too.  That palate cleansing works wonders.


Whatever the case may be, Ghost Walk is as good as they're saying and these two plays mark the most astonishing highs which the main range has reached in years, and that's not an exaggeration. For a range which felt deflated and tired, this is no small achievement. Long may it continue.


When I scored Kingdom of Lies, I was unsure whether to award it full points or not. The more you score things at the very top, the more it lessens that score, and the same with the lows. There is no hesitance here at all though. This is one of the easiest 10 out of 10s I've ever given. Sublime!

+  ORDER
this CD via Amazon.co.uk!



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