After the two month spanning storyline of The Paradox Planet and Legacy of Death, it’s time for the Fourth Doctor Range from Big Finish to come back to being a single release story (for now at least). Will this months release, Gallery of Ghouls deserve to be in a gallery, or is it haunted by dissatisfaction?
When the TARDIS lands in Brighton the Doctor and Romana have the chance to spend some time at the seaside. But with it being too early for the opening of the Pavilion, they have to look elsewhere for their entertainment – perhaps Madame Tissot’s travelling waxworks, recently arrived in town?
But they’re not the only ones interested in her Exposition. When an unusual thief commits an unusual theft, the time travellers are on the case.
What exactly is the sinister secret of Goole’s Gallery? Is Tissot’s heading for a meltdown? And what does it all have to do with the head of Marie Antoinette?
It’s not every day that you get the Doctor being paranoid that seagulls are agents of the Black Guardian, but that’s exactly how Gallery of Ghouls opens. The Doctor wants to be present for the opening of the Brighton Pavilion but arrives eighteen years too early. It’s not that bad really; and nor does the Doctor think it is, he’s quite content (in protest, mind) to sit on a deckchair and wait. I hope he took into account the tides. Romana is keen to use this waiting time wisely by travelling through Europe and being at every major historical event (Romana is obviously keen of the phrase Carpe Diem, although in her situation it’s more likely to be Capere Annis).
Gallery of Ghouls also has the courtesy to inform the listener that the Fourth Doctor has a list of his favourite things, (I wonder if raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens are two of them?) and luckily for him his 58th favourite thing, waxworks, are in town.
Madame Tissot, the woman who owns the travelling waxworks (she absolutely seems to detest Madame Tussaud) seems to be having financial hardship and is in need of more customers. Luckily for her, a Time Lord and a Time Lady are on their way. One thing I rather enjoyed was having the Fourth Doctor critique the waxworks of the historical figures who he was acquainted with in the past. There’s something also pantomime-like in the reaction when he says that the waxwork of Nelson wasn’t fully accurate (Oh yes there was!) and it really captures the silliness of the Fourth Doctor’s era.
With the Doctor turning up to any event, it’s only natural that something goes wrong, terribly wrong. Marie Antoinette’s head has gone missing, and the Doctor and Romana are the thief’s in the eyes of Madame Tissot. Luckily, Romana is already on the case of catching the real perpetrator…
The perpetrator however isn’t as conventional as the Doctor and Romana hoped for, and their escape, once solved, just asks more and more questions.
One thing that I didn’t expect in a Doctor Who story, or any type of story that is, is that there would be a war between to rival waxworks at either end of a city. In the blue corner we have Madame Tissot’s Travelling Waxworks, and in the red corner we have Goole’s Gallery of Ghouls! *Ding, ding*
Whilst the Doctor and Romana go to investigate Goole’s Gallery of Ghouls, Madame Tissot and her Noni are investigating the Doctor and Romana as they’re still certain that they’re the culprits of the theft of Marie Antoinette’s head. The Doctor and Madame Tissot descend into the Cellar of Terror and the Doctor seems to be in his element. Madame Tissot’s reaction to a mechanical waxwork is brilliant; with her being absolutely petrified by the idea of a moving inanimate object, it’s strange to think that nowadays we take these sort of oddities so nonchalantly.
The cliffhanger of the first episode is absolutely stellar, when we learn about Goole’s true identity and who he’s working for; I must admit that I worked out Goole’s identity pretty early on, but his master was one that I didn’t expect at all.
Opening the second episode, we get more information about Goole and the person that he’s seemingly working for; my favourite line in this scene being the Doctor realising that a certain someone has an unnatural penchant for sarcasm. It’s hard to write a villain that you feel remorse or compassion for; but Alan Barnes has managed to do just that in this release. It’s these types of stories that remind you that the world isn’t just black and white; instead it goes to show that people’s ideologies can alter our perception.
After this rather deep and thought-provoking moment that almost made me reevaluate what it means to be alive though, we’re yanked right back into the absurdity of Doctor Who, with the characters seeming to be slanderous to Slough. (I’m pretty sure that this might be a Big Finish in-joke as a lot of their events are in between Slough and Windsor, but I could be wrong.)
Goole isn’t the only one with more than one identity either; Madame Tissot’s life seems to be full of secrets and deceptions too and adds to the argument that not everything is black and white. The world has a hell of a lot of grey.
Something that I really enjoyed from the second episode is just how caring and compassionate Romana really is; it’s refreshing to see her care about everyone instead of it just being the Doctor. She refuses to let someone die even though they seem somewhat content in doing so.
The Doctor on the other hand, seems to lose some of his compassion, and it’s moments with the Doctor is without compassion that make you realise just how dangerous a Time Lord he has the potential to be. Like the Eleventh Doctor said, “Good men don’t need rules. Today is not a good day to find out why I have so many.”
The conclusion to Gallery of Ghouls is somewhat fairytale; the two rival factions seem to set aside their differences and everything seems to have worked out for the better. It’s not often that we get truly happy endings in Doctor Who, and I have to say I’m glad that on this occasion we did.
Should you want to purchase Gallery of Ghouls, it’s currently available physically for £10.99 and as a download for just £8.99, which you can purchase by clicking here!