Guest contributor Lincoln Wilson handles this week’s Retro Review. Read on for his thoughts on Whispers of Terror by Justin Richards!
The Doctor (Colin Baker) and Peri (Nicola Bryant) arrive at the Museum of Aural Antiquities, a storage facility for all known audio transcripts, wire-taps and speeches ever recorded. They soon encounter an intruder who appears to be altering a sound recording that we later learn is by Visteen Krane (played by Matthew Brenher), the greatest orator of his age. Krane was planning on running for President in the upcoming elections but committed suicide in one of the museum’s sound booths prior to showing his hand. Or did he?
After the intruder flees the scene, our protagonists stumble across a dead body which appears to have been electrocuted by one of the museum’s charged security doors. Not for the first time in Doctor Who, they are discovered at the scene of a crime, but they are able to convince Security Officer Barkley (Nick Scovell) and blind Museum Curator Gantman (Peter Miles) that they can help with the investigation.
We are then introduced to Krane’s cold Publicity Manager, Beth Purnell (Lisa Bowerman) and her assistant Hans Stengard (Steffan Boje). Prior to his death, Krane was planning on announcing Purnell as his electoral running-mate. After his death, Purnell will run herself for President and plans on using an archived speech from Krane to validate her candidature.
The Doctor, of course, thinks is all a bit fishy and starts to unravel the mystery of dead bodies, altered speeches and the very convenient death of Visteen Krane. Then the ‘whispers’ start. Something sinister has got in to the audio infrastructure of the museum, which is wonderfully realised by sound designer Harvey Summers. Set in a museum dedicated to all things sound, this is definitely one of those stories perfect for the audio medium. My advice is to pop on a good pair of headphones and enjoy the ride.
Colin Baker’s time at Big Finish has seen a general rounding of the character from the boisterous, self-centered incarnation of the Doctor that we saw on screen. However, part of the charm of his portrayal in Whispers of Terror is that he still retains elements of that fractious nature, with his companion Peri often on the receiving end. The two have a terrific chemistry here, which helps the story skip along at a rate of knots.
One thing we never learn is where (or indeed when) this story is set. Is the Museum of Aural Antiquities on Earth? Or on some far-flung human colony? Rather than distract from the story’s enjoyment, this ambiguity sits nicely in the background and adds to the ever-growing mystery.
Writer Justin Richards would go on to write many a story for Big Finish, but this early one still remains one of his best. Highly recommended.
Come back next week for another Retro Review! We’ll be discussing two of the Second Doctor’s Early Adventures…