Doctor Who: Hornet's Nest, Part 1 - The Stuff of Nightmares
by Paul Magrs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Fans of Doctor Who
on audio have been hoping for years that Tom Baker would return to play the part on audio, since he's the only surviving "classic series" Doctor not to have reprised the role in a full-cast audio drama. So, when Hornets' Nest
, a series of 5 linked audio dramas featuring Tom Baker, was announced, the anticipation quickly mounted. This story would have had to be an absolute classic to live up to fan expectations, and it doesn't quite manage that.
The reactions of many fans, myself included, were complicated by the fact that this isn't the style of Doctor Who
audio drama that we're used to. This is produced not by Big Finish Productions, who've held a license to make Doctor Who
audio plays for years, but by the BBC themselves. The BBC, probably wisely, chose to not try to beat Big Finish at the game they've been the undisputed masters of for a decade. This CD is a more stripped-down production than a typical Big Finish play. Large sections of the plot are narrated by Tom Baker (within a framing device of the Doctor recounting a recent adventure to Mike Yates), with only selected scenes being fully dramatized with other actors and sound effects. Some sections of narration also get spruced up with music and sound effects. (The obvious point of comparison is Big Finish's Companion Chronicles range - this has a bit more actual dramatization than a Companion Chronicles release, but the sound design is sparser in the narrated sections.) I found myself wishing that the balance had tipped towards a slightly greater degree of dramatization. (Writer Paul Magrs has indicated that future releases in the series will trend towards more full dramatization and less narration.)
The story has the kind of spooky weirdness that Paul Magrs excels at, though I found the pacing a bit leisurely. It's hard to judge the plot in any case, because this isn't really a complete story in its own right. It's more of a setup for the later stories in the sequence. I think the setup itself is quite intriguing: Magrs has set up a scenario where the Doctor will battle the same enemy across different places and times. It's just kind of a pity that you have to wait almost until the end of the first CD to really see where it's all going.
You also have to wait a little while to get the full thrill of "Wooohooo! The 4th Doctor is back!" that fans were really anticipating. The Doctor we meet initially sounds rather subdued. There are reasons within the drama for this, and by the time the story gets to the climax, Tom Baker is playing the part with all his old energy. But it is initially disappointing.
So, this isn't an unmitigated triumph. But it could be the start of something promising. At the very least, I'll buy the next CD in the sequence on the basis of this one. View all my reviews >>