Friday, February 22, 2013

The Skull of Sobek [8th Doctor + Lucie Miller]


The first thing that needs to be said about 'The Skull of Sobek' is that it has a wonderful cast: Art Malik as Abbot Absolute, Barbara Flynn* as Sister Chalice, Giles Watling (sister of Deborah, son of Jack) as The Old Prince, Sean Biggerstaff as Snabb and the Big Finish regular and vocal miracle worker Katarina Olsson** as Sister Thrift.

You'd bite a casting director's hand off if you were offered that cast for virtually anything but for audio drama it is virtually a miraculous collection of memorable voices.

And that helps sell a rather odd story.

Written by Marc Platt, whose Ghost Light is regular held up as rather confusing, it does seem to have a rather bizarre quality of 'what's this supposed to be aboutness' to it. Is it deep? Or is it just another 50 minute episode in a long running science-fiction adventure series with nasty monsters (in this case Crocodilians), Companions in jeopardy and the Doctor saving the day? Does he even save the day? What, in the plainest of language, the bloody hell is going on?

There's a Skull, which has interesting hallucinogenic properties.

There's a planet ending civil war between two factions of Crocodilians, which has been going on forever. Unfinished. The Skull wants it finished.

The two factions of Crocodilians are old so The Skull is going to find champions to do the hand-to-hand war ending battle for them. Unfortunately this will make Lucie's life rather difficult. For a while. Lucie has a weird thing for Crocodiles. They haunt here anxiety dreams. The tick-tock terrors of the Peter Pan crocodile twisted but she's fascinated by them too. Dangerously so it turns out.

Do the Crocodiles represent anything? Does it matter? Perhaps Marc Platt just picked them because he's scared of them? Does there have to be something behind everything? Sometimes a crocodile is just a crocodile.

There's some stuff in there about balance, symmetry and the universe, which is nice. There's a lot of blue. There's a bad camel pun. There's some throwaway stuff about small print, which may or may not be....oh look...I'm trying to hard here.

It's fun. It's brilliantly acted. Paul McGann and Sheriden Smith seem to have developed a rather lovely relationship now. The worst of the antagonism has drifted away and they genuinely sound like friends. Or the sort of friends I have. The ones that take the piss out of you but in a way that is never really touched by anger or cruelty.

There's probably loads of stuff going on that I've missed.

Or nothing.

But I enjoyed it. So everything else is spectacular irrelevant.



*I have something of a crush on Barbara Flynn. This dates back to her appearances as Jill Swinburne in various Biderbeckes and then as Rose Marie in 'A Very Peculiar Practice'. She has a voice that I could listen to forever. This may colour my response to this story.

**Katarina Olsson deserves some kind of eulogy. She's appeared in loads of Big Finish stories, can do not just different accents but different voices. To the extent that she's unrecognisable, which is really rare. She does a fine job whenever she appears and seems inexplicably not to be massively and deservedly famous.

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