The Fourth Doctor and Romana are back once again, this time they’re tackling Hollywood in the 1920s. The question is, will The Silent Scream have us screaming with joy, or is this an hour you’d rather spend in silence?
On the set of a busy Hollywood movie in the late 1920s, a damsel is in distress! As cameras roll, she opens her mouth to scream and… nothing comes out. Nothing at all. It’s happened again.
The Doctor, Romana and K9 have arrived in a terrified Tinseltown. A new film is being made and several stars of the silent screen are viewing it as a potential comeback… but it may prove a poisoned chalice. Actors are vanishing and strange creatures stalk the streets.
Something evil is lurking behind the scenery. Can the Doctor stop it when he doesn’t have a voice?
It’s time for his close-up.
Ah, Hollywood in the 1920s, think of the glitz, the glam, the emerging new media. That big scary place where the people are all aiming to be the next big star. Any role could be the one that makes you make it, especially now the talkies are in town. It must be awful if you were a silent star, and now, trying to make it in the talkies, you find that you can’t use your voice.
It’s not long before we’re introduced to Loretta Waldorf, an actress who is down on her luck, and it’s equally not as long before the Doctor and Romana are at her door, dying to meet her. It’s rather bemusing to hear the Fourth Doctor fanboy over someone; and he uses it brilliantly to his advantage, to get information about what’s terrifying Loretta.
James Goss wastes no time to introduce what appears to be the villain of this tale; some incredibly thin shadows made of cellulose, which coincidentally is also part of making old fashioned photography film. The creatures manage to take Loretta’s voice too. It’s obvious this menace shows no mercy.
The rest of the first episode of The Silent Scream is fairly cookie cutter Doctor Who, the Doctor and Romana have split up and gained a companion of their own, the Doctor learns more about the menace whilst Romana seems to be going further down the rabbit-hole. There’s a person who’s claiming he’s able to improve humanity, and the Doctor and Romana both end up in separate pickles.
The second episode starts, as usual, where the first left off, and it’s not long before Romana and K9 realise that the Doctor is in great trouble, and they share a great taxi ride, in which K9 asks some rather philosophical questions about the world of acting, and what being an actor actually is. As someone who was a theatre kid, it’s a really interesting question. I can’t wait for Big Finish to inevitably begin their “K9 Philosophy” series.
During the second episode, there’s a lot more intrigue, as it turns out that a collection of Silent Movies have been stolen from the vault of Hammerstein Pictures, and nobody is quite sure why.
Considering there’s a cellulose villain, I personally think that the human villain, Doctor Julius, who is the far more compelling baddie. There’s something about the Fourth Doctor’s era and having human(oid) villains who are only seemingly out to make a profit that makes Julius feel right at home.
Having the Doctor’s voice separated from his body is a really interesting concept, especially with that voice that is so iconic; I don’t think there’s any Doctor who’s voice is as instantly recognisable as Tom Baker’s.
If there’s one gripe I have with the ending of The Silent Scream, it’s just how quickly it all seems to be over; an awful lot happens in the last five minutes, and everything is tied up so quickly that it seems somewhat rushed. I know it’s a common complaint I have, but I feel like an extra ten minutes between the Doctor and Julius would have served both the story and Julius’ character greatly.
Overall, The Silent Scream is a fun story set amongst the glitz and glam of 1920’s Hollywood; there’s a relatively small cast and I think that this is one of the Big Finish releases that could serve a car journey with children well, as the plot is rather easy to understand, and there’s no especially dark themes. There are concepts in this story that almost seemed designed to be revisited, especially the character of Doctor Julius, and I hope that he gets more time to shine in the future.
Should you want to purchase The Silent Scream, it’s currently available from Big Finish for £10.99 on CD or a £8.99 download which you can purchase here.