It’s the final story in this trilogy of adventures featuring the Seventh Doctor as played by Sylvester McCoy, with companions Ace and Mel by his side. Back in July we welcomed Mel back into the TARDIS in A Life of Crime, then last month we got a taste of Spain in Fiesta of The Damned and now, it seems as if we’re going to be battling hogs on steroids in Maker of Demons; don’t you just love the variety that Doctor Who can offer?
Decades ago, the mysterious time-travelling Doctor and his cheerful companion Mel became the toast of the planet Prosper, when they brokered a peace between the native Mogera and humans from the colony ship The Duke of Milan.
But when the TARDIS at last returns to Prosper, the Doctor, Mel and their associate Ace find only a warzone. The burrowing Mogera have become brutal monsters, dominated by their terrifying leader Caliban – and it’s all the Doctor’s fault!
As far as I can tell, this is writer Matthew J Elliott’s first ever full length Doctor Who story that he’s written for Big Finish; he’s written a thirty minute story for the monthly range in You Are The Doctor (He wrote the story Dead To The World) but now he seems to be stretching his scriptwriting to a full two hours. As someone who would die for the opportunity to write a script for Big Finish, (I know you guys have my email, feel free to get in touch) I must admit that I’m looking at this release as a benchmark for the quality a new writer should be to join the Big Finish crew. (Seriously, email me guys!)
Something that’s always intrigued me that doesn’t often get mentioned in the show is the aftereffect of the Doctor coming to save the day. The whole idea of a man who doesn’t look back because he dare not really intrigues me, as statistically, at least a few of the Doctor’s many adventures in time and space would ultimately have a negative effect. Just from the opening moments you get the impression that the Doctor’s previous arrival on the ship ‘The Duke of Milan’ has so far had an extremely positive effect on it’s inhabitants, so naturally, we call all assume that this means something is going to go awry.
It seems as if the pre-titles scene in Maker of Demons is set before the trilogy of stories that Maker of Demons is set in, as it appears that it’s just the Doctor and Mel who have recently helped the people from The Duke of Milan settle and cohabit the planet now known as Prosper with the indigineous race, the Mogera.
After the titles, we’re seemingly back in the present (from the Seventh Doctor’s perspective anyway; as in it’s after the events of Fiesta of The Damned), with the Doctor, Ace and Mel. It seems that the trio are going to revisit Prosper, and that Prosper seems to not be such a peaceful planet any more. We learn some more information about the planet of Prosper, such as it has a great deposit of Doctorium (an element that the Doctor discovered and named, isn’t he modest?) which is a clean source of energy.
I have to say that, even before I’m midway through the first episode of Maker of Demons, I love the way that Matthew J Elliott has characterised the main trio in this very rare TARDIS crew; none of the three feel too similar to another; they all have their own roles and voices which are spot on to the characters we first saw all those years ago on the TV (or recently on a DVD). I must especially commend him for writing the relationship between Ace and Mel so brilliantly; they’re two extremely different companions, some might even say polar opposites; but they compliment each other brilliantly, they both like to correct the Doctor and set him straight and Sylvester McCoy’s performance as the Time Lord, as always, is absolutely stellar.
Once the Doctor, Ace and Mel arrive on Prosper, they quickly realise that something has indeed gone awry; very awry, and the gang are attacked by the beautiful looking creature that graces the cover of the release. The Doctor and Mel get rescued by an unknown, who recognises the pair due to their notoriety on the planet, leaving Ace alone amongst the ruins of Prosper.
Something that I can’t thank Big Finish enough for, is letting Ace get more time to be alone. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy Ace and the Doctor being together; in fact they’re one of my favourite Doctor-Companion duos of the show, but I think that Ace as a companion is one that can really hold her own, whilst having certain parts of her vulnerabilities come through. She’s like one of those gooey cookies you can buy nowadays; hard on the outside, but soft on the inside.
It’s not long before the Mogera, the creatures that resulted in separating Ace from the Doctor and Mel decide that they need Ace for part of their plan, and a manhunt (or is it womanhunt?) for her begins. Luckily, Ace has enough street smarts to know that the safest place for her to be until the Doctor and Mel returns is the TARDIS. She gets there, which is all well and good, but she’s left her key inside; and the door is locked…
When it transpires that Doctorium is extremely harmful to the Mogera, enhancing all of their features apart from their brain capacity; meaning they’ve gone from being cute and cuddly to having fangs and claws that could rip you to shreds extremely quickly.
The cliffhanger at the end of the first episode is somewhat predictable, especially with the build up; but it does give some great tension for the second episode.
The second episode starts, as most Big Finish Monthly Range’s episodes do, exactly where the previous episode left off; albeit, the very end this time, there was only about a minute of overlap at the most, which was nice, as it meant you could be thrown straight back into the action.
One thing that I really liked about this portrayal of Mel, especially in the first few scenes of the second episode, is just how protective she seems to be of Ace, and how much she cares about Ace’s safety. It would have been easy I think for the writers of this Seventh Doctor, Ace and Mel trilogy to have made Mel somewhat hostile towards Ace, as Ace was Mel’s replacement; but there’s no sense of malice at all, they’re sisters in arms; part of an elite club that very few people have the opportunity to be a part of. They’re both the Doctor’s companion.
When we rejoin Ace with the Morgera who has seemingly captured her; we find that they’re having a nice little chat, introducing one another. This particular Morgera seems to be rather nice, in fact they’re grateful to Ace. That doesn’t mean that the Morgera won’t be taking her prisoner though.
Something that really hit me in the second episode is just how orchestral and modern the music seems to be in this release; it’s much more like New-Who than the classic series, and Nigel Fairs’ score could easily fit into a modern episode; the vocals, provided by Susan Procter, are so haunting and beautiful, that it really adds a whole other layer to this story.
The Mogera that Ace has found herself with is quite honestly, one of the funniest ‘villains’ I can remember Big Finish producing in recent memory. They’re not funny in the typical ‘haha’ sense, they’re funny because, to me, this Mogera is very reminiscent of Kevin the Teenager (there’s a video at the bottom if you’ve no idea what I’m going on about).
The second episode really focusses on the consequences of the Doctor and Mel’s first encounter on Prosper; for both parties, the humans and the Mogera alike, and how the Doctor can leave devastation in his wake.
The second episode’s cliffhanger isn’t really anything to write home about, truth be told; but all in all it was an extremely solid episode.
In the third episode, I really feel as if Maker of Demons is a Classic Who take on the themes shown in The Doctor’s Daughter, with two armies against one another, and the ‘bad guys’ aren’t really bad, they’re just misunderstood; the Mogera act a lot like the Hath did in that story. Martha is replaced by Ace and Donna is replaced by Mel; the Tenth Doctor is the Seventh Doctor and the parallels are seemingly endless.
I have to admit that the cliffhanger to the third episode really did knock me for six; it was something I honestly didn’t see coming, and is a surprise that I’m not going to ruin for anyone who’s not been able to listen to the release yet.
The final episode of Maker of Demons seems to be a culmination of everything that has been going on in the previous three. Ace is with a gang of Mogera and she’s totally outnumbered; but, as we all know, Ace is not scared of being creative with weapons and escapes. Just ask that Dalek in Remembrance of The Daleks about that. The Doctor and Mel are still trying to save Ace, assuming that she’s alive; and we learn a lot about the true history of Prosper.
It’s really difficult to talk too much about the latter episodes without spoiling some major plot points, which is why I’ve not really gone into too much detail; all I’ll say is that I really enjoyed this story.
The conclusion of Maker of Demons is somewhat bittersweet; which, I must admit, are my favourite types of endings in Doctor Who stories. There’s no winner and no loser in this tale, and it’s a lot more layered than I first anticipated. The Doctor’s actions in the final moments are very Seventh Doctor-esque, which I love. He’s prickly and he’s remorseful which is exactly what I think the Seventh Doctor is at his core.
Overall, Maker of Demons is an extremely layered morality tale, that uses the Seventh Doctor’s unique character traits to the stories advantage. Whilst this may be Matthew J Elliott’s first foray into the Monthly Range on his own; I must say, I certainly hope it isn’t his last.
Should you want to purchase Maker Of Demons, it’s currently available from Big Finish which can be purchased here for £14.99 for a physical version, or a download for £12.99.
Here’s some Kevin for you!