Last year saw Stephen Noonan make his debut as the new voice of the First Doctor at Big Finish… and what a debut he made! Though The Outlaws (review here) was a slightly mixed bag, with The Miniaturist being far stronger than the titular story, Noonan’s performance, as well as that of co-star Lauren Cornelius, who plays Dodo, was truly excellent, perfectly capturing William Hartnell‘s vocal mannerisms. I went into The Demon Song with an high hopes, then, and I’m happy to report it’s a far stronger boxset overall.
The Demon Song, written by Big Finish newcomer Bob Ayres, opens the set, taking the Doctor and Dodo to modern-day Camden, where a sinister siren is luring people to its lair with a haunting melody. Like The Miniaturist, this is a two-part story with a modern flavour, giving us a First Doctor story that feels like something one of the more recent Doctors would get on television. It’s great that Big Finish are continuing to give us these less traditional First Doctor stories; while it’s nice to have more faithful recreations of the Hartnell era, it’s equally as fun to break with the template, doing stories that could never have been done with the character on TV.
Though it loses its way somewhat towards the end, The Demon Song is generally a strong story, with likeable characters and a compelling plot. Noonan is joined for much of the adventure by Bhavnisha Parmar as Archana ‘Archie’ Pawar and Henry Notts as demon hunter Daniel De’ath, who, as people from the 2020s, really show off the novelty of this Doctor visiting the modern era. Meanwhile, Lauren Cornelius gets some great material as Dodo is captured by the villain of the piece, and must fight to escape.
As its title suggests, this story is all about music, and sound designer/composer Toby Hrycek-Robinson does a stellar job with both the score and foley. A particular highlight is the choral rendition of the titular song, as well as the climactic showdown with the story’s villain in part two. This, coupled with the novel setting and compelling side characters, makes The Demon Song the best of these new First Doctor Adventures so far.
The Demon Song is followed by The Incherton Incident, a more traditional-feeling four part story by Nicholas Briggs. Here, Briggs takes the Doctor and Dodo to a seaside town in post-war England, where an alien force is threatening total destruction. It’s a slow-paced but interesting story with some nice action sequences and a couple of good twists in the final two parts.
Noonan and Cornelius shine once again, the former having some excellent chemistry with Genevieve Gaunt‘s cold and ruthless US agent Virginia and the latter having a great little subplot where she is accused of being a Russian spy. Noonan is on particularly sparkling form, delivering a few evocatively-written monologues throughout the piece which, to my mind, are his defining moments in the role thus far. The other characters in the piece are a little too thinly-sketched for my liking and the plot, at times, feels a little similar to Briggs’ own The Annihilators (review here) but, all in all, this is an effective story.
It’s a real shame there’s only one First Doctor Adventures release a year, because I really love the pairing of Noonan and Cornelius, and look forward to seeing where Big Finish take them next. For now, though, we’re left with a tantalising cliffhanger, and the promise of more adventures soon. Recommended.
The Demon Song is available on CD or as a download from http://www.bigfinish.com
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