Guest contributor Kieran Brennan tackles Minuet in Hell, undeniably one of the most controversial of the Eighth Doctor’s early adventures at Big Finish…
The Doctor (with amnesia) is stuck in a mental asylum, Charley (with amnesia) is working in a gentleman’s club and the Brigadier keeps bumping into them. Oh, and demons and satan and vampire hunters and Malebolgia and it’s really hard to write a concise two or three line summary of this to open the review.
Minuet in Hell is the finale to Paul McGann’s initial run of four audio adventures at Big Finish. General consensus is that this run is remarkably inconsistent, but you really have to experience it yourself to believe it. This Eighth Doctor Revisited series has been my first time through the Eighth Doctors catalogue and so far it’s been quite the education in both how good and bad Big Finish can be. The height of this run so far is by far Storm Warning, a refreshing and endearing introduction to this new era, but by far the low point has to be Minuet in Hell.
At the absurd length of almost two and a half hours, Minuet in Hell is bursting with ideas and, although I’m sure some could be developed into good stories, they’re all wasted here in this bloated mess. The Doctor spends the majority of this story not even knowing his name and, given that bouts of amnesia aren’t uncommon for this particular, I can only hope they aren’t as dull as this. It leaves him on the sidelines of the story for so long, in his own little B-plot that drags on for a stupid amount of time.
The villains and side characters are laughable, most having ridiculous American accents or comically booming voices. There’s a character who acts as a satire of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but this only draws attention to the fact that the script feels like someone adapted their poorly thought out fanfiction and gave it a Doctor Who coat of paint.
Even the sound design is terrible, nearly every change of scene is too sharp and jarring, rarely feeling like there’s been any effort to make a smooth transition and, even when there is, it ends up cutting off the last few words of someone talking making you feel as though you’ve missed something. It feels so much more like an amateur production than the previous few Big Finish releases.
And all of this without mentioning Charley’s storyline which feels incredibly out of place for a piece of Doctor Who content. Mild spoilers here as Charley’s work in the “gentlemen’s club” has her routinely mention what she’s wearing and at one point she’s even sexually harassed. I personally prefer my Doctor Who not to delve into issues like that, it’s primarily a show aimed at children and although the Big Finish audience is much older than the television audience, it creates a massive disconnect between the two. That being said, there are ways one can bring in these types of things well and if it serves the story and is discussed with care then I of course can look past a petty “not in my Doctor Who” complaint, but Minuet in Hell doesn’t do anything remotely interesting with the plot point and it just becomes a moment of discomfort in the story.
Anyway as for positives, the Brigadier is back! He’s fun in this and it’s always great to see the character again in what I believe is his only story with the Eighth Doctor.
Overall, Minuet in Hell is a bizarre, confusing mess of a story. A cocktail of cool ideas that was spilled on the ground that never comes together in any sort of enjoyable way, it definitely deserves its infamous reputation as one of Big Finish’s weakest stories.
Minuet in Hell is available as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com… if you dare!