The Doctor and Romana are going back in time this month, after spending last months adventure with an ape in Dethras. From the title of this month’s outing, it seems that things might be getting somewhat spooky. The question is, will The Haunting of Malkin Place by scarily good, or will it be dead on arrival?
Whilst on the way to visit the birthplace of Henry James, a chance encounter with a spiritualist on a train sends the Doctor and Romana on the trail of a ghost. It’s the most convincing case of haunting he’s ever heard of, he tells them. And so, on their arrival, does it appear to be.
Things go bump in the night at Malkin Place. The voice of a crying child. Birds bursting into flight. Strange movements in a seance.
The Doctor is determined there must be a rational explanation. But is science always the answer to everything?
There’s nothing like starting a story with a sob, is there? The sob is caused by a death; and the dead don’t normally come back. Do they? Romana doesn’t think so, she, like most, doesn’t believe in ghosts. But Romana does believe that there’s footsteps in the the Doctor’s house in Baker Street and they’re not from either herself of the Doctor.
We’re then introduced to a man named Maurice. A soldier who’s fought in the Great War. A man who lives in Malkin Place and a man who is dealing with the ghosts of his past. Maurice, scared, has enlisted the help of a spiritualist called Talbot, and Talbot is on the same train as out Time Lord and Lady friends. Of course, the Doctor can’t help himself in the mystery of Malkin Place opposed to the calm excursion he had planned.
Even though the Doctor is getting whisked away into the flights of fancy in regard to the haunting of Malkin Place, Romana is still extremely adamant that there’s anything supernatural or paranormal at work. I love how Romana is written, especially because she sticks to her convictions; and, being an accomplished Time Lady, she’s incredibly scientifically minded. Ghosts do not exist.
There’s a slight comedic moment that I was unsure whether to laugh at involving a bog, but it quickly went from something to smirk at to something to shiver at. It wasn’t stretched out either; it was just a brief moment, but it really helped set the tone. This isn’t going to be the fun Fourth Doctor adventure that we’re used to. It seems as if it’s going to be a lot darker.
Maurice may well be my favourite aspect of this stories first half. He’s played brilliantly by Gunnar Cauthery, and he portrays his turmoil beautifully; it’s not hyperbolic at all, and the subtlety really adds to his soldier-iness.
The cliffhanger at the end of the first episode is rather eerie, especially if you believe in seances. Even though ghosts don’t exist, Romana is panicked by what she’s just witnessed. And the Doctor is missing. I know I’ve talked a lot in my recent reviews about ways of splitting the Doctor and his companion up effectively; Phil Mulryne has executed it brilliantly at the end of the first episode here.
The second episode starts with Romana being determined to find out exactly what’s happened to the Doctor. Both Maurice and Talbot are tagging along too, as the strapping men to help with any physical activities. Like rescuing someone or something from a bog…
Throughout the second episode, the spooky goings-on become more spooky and even more frequent; it seems as if Maurice is holding onto a secret. This isn’t going to be a straightforward ghost story like I expected. This is a hell of a lot more emotional. This is what Doctor Who does best, taking a simple format like a ghost story, and adding a layer of humanity and emotion on top to create something new and something beautiful.
During the last fifteen minutes, the story takes a rather different turn; as events start to fall into place and the Doctor does what the Doctor does best. Which, coincidentally, is be a Doctor. The Fourth Doctor just has to be careful to not run into his Eighth Doctor and Molly O’Sullivan.
The conclusion of The Haunting of Malkin Place is rather bittersweet. Sacrifices are made and time is amended to how events should be. New faces appear and old ones will fade. When you think about it, that’s the life that the Doctor leads every day. Even though he tries not to think about it.
Now, if you’re a regular reader of my reviews, you’ll know that I very rarely give a Fourth Doctor story a rating in the 90% region, and it’s not because I don’t want to; I just don’t think they resonate with me as much as other releases. This time however, Phil Mulryne has done an absolutely stellar job, especially with the last line. I hope there’s a sequel. God I hope there’s a sequel. But ghosts aren’t real. Are they?
Should you want to purchase The Haunting of Malkin Place, it’s currently available from Big Finish for £10.99 on CD or a £8.99 download which you can purchase here.