Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Army of Death [8th Doctor + Mary Shelley]

Army of Death is an odd story. It's tone is all over the shop. On the one hand it has a certain degree of horror to it; on the other it has moments of comedy. Like Hartnell historicals with a comedy element this sometimes jars a little.

However in general terms this is not bad.

The Doctor has bought Mary Shelley to the continent of Zelonia on the planet Draxine. In his usual style he promises restfulness and friendliness but because this is Doctor Who they manage to turn up at just the wrong moment: the City of Garrak has just been blown up by it's (allegedly) mad and bad President Harmon. Meanwhile in the City of Stronghaven things are afoot. There are tales of the walking dead and what is the horrible thing that visits President Vallan (David Harewood) whilst he is alone. And why did Nia Brusk assassinate Stronghaven's former President Karnex?

It's all rather odd.

Gradually however - and rather neatly - the threads of the story are drawn together ending in a rather spectacular (and rather tragic) conclusion. Mary Shelley is certainly affected by events. One of things I do like about Big Finish's Mary Shelley is that she is believable empathic. Seeing the best in the worst (as she does in the 'Silver Turk' too). Julie Cox does an excellent job with the part too. She sounds just right. What does annoy me about the Big Finish Mary Shelley is that - and this is a rather personal view - they undermine the real Mary Shelley's achievements by having her writing be based on adventures she had with the Doctor. So rather than coming from her imagination she's reduced to writing Doctor Who novelizations without the Doctor. I feel the same way about H.G. Wells in 'Timelash'.

Yes, I know that's a rather personal view but it is mine own (and don't get me started on the way Byron, Shelley et al are portrayed in 'The Company of Friends'. As a alternative I recommend 'Red Shelley' by Paul Foot, which is probably out of print.)

There's an excellent cast here: David Harewood, Carolyn Pickles (Lady Meera), Eva Pope (Nia Brusk) and Joanna Christie (Sherla). It's also rather nice to hear ex-Star Cop Trevor Cooper pop up in a series of different voice roles. Cooper is one of my favourite actors. Also doing the multiple parts thang is Mitch Benn (best known as a stand-up comedian/musician and stalwart of 'The Now Show'). Benn's got a great voice and it is shown to its best in some creepy head-to-head scenes with David Harewood. He also gets to do a fine 'action hero' voice as Commander Rayner.

McGann's good in this - as usual. I don't often stop to praise McGann as his standards are usually so high so I take a moment here to praise McGann. He's good. Can we have him on the television please for the 50th Anniversary?

Next up, we begin the Lucie Miller adventures.

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