Sunday, 12 December 2010

Doctor Who: Lurkers at Sunlight's Edge review

We already know that I like a bit of Who.
One of my other favourite things is H.P. Lovecraft. And arguably his best work was the novella AT The Mountains of Madness, which had recently been released as a graphic novel by Self Made Hero, and is also about to be made into a film by Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo Del Toro.
Indeed, Who has flirted with Lovcraftian themes and monsters many times in the past, so it’s no surprise to see them being used again in this one.
At the Mountains of Madness concerned itself with a group of explores discovering an abandoned, impossibly old, city in the Antarctic wastes. If you haven’t read it, you really should, it is a textbook exercise in creating terror by atmosphere alone.
In this tale, The Doctor, Ace and Hex arrive on an island off the coast of Alaska somewhere. A mysterious island that has only been there for a few years, upon which there appear to be impossibly old structures. So far, so Lovecraft. And while the whole feel of the piece has the creeping dread of a Lovecraft tale (I think it even uses the word ‘cyclopean’), it isn’t actually set in the mythos as other Who tales have seemed to be- but that, of course, is the beauty of Who.
There were a couple of points during listening to this one that I feared the worst. It seems to tread water a couple of times. It’s not padded out exactly, but there are some scenes that could handle a few minutes shaved from them. And there is the story strand with a hospital built on the island, and one of the inhabitants is a writer, not unlike Lovercraft, who is famous for writing tales of otherworldly monsters… much like the ones appearing on the island.
When this storyline started to emerge, I will confess to an 'Oh dear, they're not, are they?' moment, but I needn’t have. The dreadful cliché that I feared is nicely sidestepped and turned into something rather neat and original.
As always, the performances all hit the mark perfectly, with Hex in particular getting some nice action.
But best of all is the atmosphere. Perhaps it’s the weather here at the moment (it was -17 when I wrote this), but the sound effects and score really help to sell the idea we’re on a freezing island off the coast of Alaska. But this brilliant job in sound design is all but ruined (for me at least) by one enormous blunder in the script, where the characters find the bones of an animal half a planet away from where they should be!
Apart from that, this is another home run by Big Finish.

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