Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Audio Drama Review - Dr Who: Scherzo

The Beatles once sang: All you need is love. The Doctor, in Scherzo, is very quick to disagree with this conclusion.

Meet the 8th Doctor, Paul McGann, and his audio-only companion Charley. They've had a pretty rough time as of late and there's a lot of raw emotion hanging in the air between. Self-sacrificing and declarations of love have been strewn over the past few adventures, and now they find themselves stranded together in an unknown and scary new universe.

The Doctor, of course, seems to be finding this whole emotional thing a bit difficult. Since Colin Baker's Doctor, really, the Time Lord has been through a zigzagging a rather odd emotional path. Ostensensibly, the path Big Finish appear to be taking with the 8th looks to be laying the groundwork for the angsty and scarred 9th, and in this audio drama he edges uncomfortably close to outright dislikeable. There's something terrifying about the performance, and the way he treats his companion, pushing and pulling her mentally and emotionally. At times he even seems to get a vindictive sense of pleasure from this.

Between the writing, directing and sound engineering this story is a marvel. For a location that isn't really a location, the setting itself is endowed with so much character and atmosphere. It really seems to reflection the purgatorial fear and pain that the characters are going through, and a creepy array of sounds paints a full picture, paradoxically, of this empty place.

This is a psychological horror and a bottle episode, and when it comes to intensity and fear this story makes Midnight look rather tame. The sense of loss and pain amplifies the terrifying location and psychological horror that the two are confronted with; the "monster of the week" is ambiguous and strange enough to worm it's way into your mind.

Despite the emotionally intensive nature of the story, it is a low-key affair. Little happens, apart from a difficult conversation between the Doctor and Charley, whilst they go for a walk. To turn that into an intense, horrifying, original and extremely emotional experience is a testament to the skills of those involved.

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