The Haunting of Thomas Brewster, by Jonathan Morris
I’ve been splitting these stories into arbitrarily-arranged “seasons”, and this one marks the end of “season two” of the Doctor’s travels with Nyssa. In all fairness, considering the plotlines of the next two plays, I could easily have made this season longer but I reckon the cliff-hangers work better here than at the end of The Boy That Time Forgot. Needless to say, I won’t be spoiling the ending here. Not completely.
Anyway, the play’s the thing. And an odd thing it is too. Curiously constructed – the first episode is narrated and witnessed almost entirely by Thomas Brewster, a Victorian orphan who posseses more than a passing resemblance to one Master Twist¹, while the Doc and Nyssa make only cameo appearances. The second and third episodes are the meat of the affair, while the fourth is the other side of the mirror to the first.
The construction, based as it is around time paradoxes and other such nefarious beasties, does keep the story in order but…. and here’s the big “but”… there’s something very wrong with the whole pace of the play. Someone has seen fit to insert quite lengthy musical interludes after almost every scene. This ruins the pace, the tension – it’s like pressing pause on a film every time the action cuts away. It didn’t grate on me so much during the first episode but after that, when the speed really needs to pick up… it doesn’t. I reckon you could shave a full five minutes off this play just by taking the music out, and it wouldn’t suffer at all.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s some marvellous storytelling, along with Victorian vernacular, the idea of the Doctor with whiskers, a Conan Doyle-esque “new assistant”, and even more “innocents must die” anguish (they’re really laying it on thick for this incarnation, for whom frustration is a primary emotion). But I can’t get past that lack of pace. Even the final twist (or should that be Twist, eh boy?) can’t raise my scoring here.
Bonus review: Bernice Summerfield and the Extinction Event, by Lance Parkin
In which Professor Summerfield deals with auctions, aggressive aliens, genocide, attempted murder, complicity, revenge, and ambiguous morality. All in just under an hour. Who said archaeology was dull?
This time around the trowel-toting troubleshooter is actually sans trowel. Instead she’s at an intergalactic auction house, with Irving Braxiatel, for what has been dubbed the Extinction Event: every lot is from a vanished, destroyed or otherwise lost civilisation. Braxiatel is most particularly interested in a harp that is said to be the sole surviving relic of the planet Halstad. But the vendor has not disclosed the whole truth, and the harp’s original owner has just arrived…
Again with this play there’s a slight uncertainty in the detail: sounds happen and are never fully explained as the plot races on, and at this point I can only tell you that someone died at the end – I just ain’t sure how they died. But that aside, this is a good, fast-paced tale that knows there are no easy answers and no obvious winners, and Benny’s frustration and unhappiness is well-written and well-acted out. If they carry on like this, I’ll going to have to get that 5th star back out…
¹Except that Oliver Twist was never haunted by a gaseous alien that posed as his long-dead mother so as to convince him to steal the components for, and then build, a rudimentary time-machine. Or was that in the chapter I skipped?