Our series of Retro Reviews resumes with Matthew Sweet’s brilliant “The Magic Mousetrap”. This review will contain spoilers, so read on at your own risk!
Directed by Ken Bentley, this is a twisty-turny story taking place in a sanatorium atop a Swiss mountain. A group of mysterious strangers have been gathered together to play seemingly endless games, and a strange couple live up in the attic, orchestrating the whole thing. Puzzling but innovative, the plot is unlike any other in a Big Finish story, and for this I commend Matthew Sweet no end.
This story also sees the return of the Celestial Toymaker, in his first appearance in a Big Finish audio. This time taking on the appearance of a ventriloquist’s dummy, the Toymaker is a delightfully sinister presence throughout the story, bending events to his will and manipulating the inhabitants of the sanatorium to fit his plans.
Sylvester McCoy gets to play rather a different side to the Doctor in this story, which he does with flair. It’s nice that, for once, he has no idea what’s going on (and, for much of the earlier parts of the story, no idea who he is!); instead, it’s Ace and Hex who are in charge here. Or so it seems…
It’s a credit to their acting skills that I didn’t realise it was Sophie Aldred and Philip Olivier speaking until they broke character as Bunty and Bobo in the middle of part two. Both of them put across a great performance in this story, simultaneously taking charge of the situation and out of their depth. Hex’s admission that it feels wrong to deceive the Doctor was particularly well played.
The guest cast in this story are all fantastic too, bringing their characters to life wonderfully. From Joan Walker‘s husky-voiced cabaret singer Lola Luna to Nadine Lewington‘s chipper and immediately likeable Queenie Glasscock, each and every one of the supporting characters is well-written and adds to the story in such a way that there would be something missing without them.
The sound design by Richard Fox and Lauren Yason is particularly strong in this release. One of the highlights of the story was the avalanche in part two, which is realised wonderfully by the sound designers, but the attention to the slightest detail all throughout the piece, such as Lola’s whistling whenever she speaks and the clicking of the dummy’s mouth with every syllable, is also impressive.
All in all, The Magic Mousetrap is a beguiling, mysterious and thrilling story that is truly unlike any other I have heard in the Doctor Who universe. All the cast give their all- and rightly so, with such a great script- and the sound design and music are top notch.
The Magic Mousetrap is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com
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