It’s that time of the year again, when classic Doctors find themselves about New-Who monsters. In this second set, we’re joined by the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth incarnations of our favourite Time Lord in a slew of new stories. Today, I’ll be reviewing the penultimate story in the set, The Carrionite Curse, starring the Sixth Doctor.
Katy Bell returns to her Midlands home to find strange goings-on at the buskers fair. A witch trial in the 1980s. A bonfire ready to be lit…
Luckily, a colourful visitor is already investigating, and the local vicar, Katy’s dad, is versed in tales of the macabre. Terrifying forces are on the loose, and the town hall holds a secret. There is black magic in the Black Country, and the Doctor has the name of his enemy on the tip of his tongue…
Something wicked this way comes.
It’s all go at the beginning of The Carrionite Curse, and the opening scene reminds me for some reason of The Vicar of Dibley, and I’m not entirely sure why; it’s probably to do with the community spirit, but I can’t be certain. Not everything is at it seems though, as it seems that in this little village there’s a witch on the loose, and she’s not afraid to admit it.
When we meet the Sixth Doctor, he’s living up to his attire and being somewhat of a children’s entertainer. Now, I know that Big Finish has allowed Colin Baker’s Sixie to be a more developed character than the TV show did, but I love it when he’s just being nice. That’s what the Doctor is at their core. Just nice. I’d love to see him juggling water balloons.
Once the Sixth Doctor has met up with Katy, seemingly his companion for this story, their dynamic is absolutely electrifying; she’s intelligent, funny, eloquent and sarcastic, the perfect pairing for the Sixth Doctor I feel. Katy is like any young adult, she doesn’t fit in in her village, she’s a bit of an outcast and she’s had to have an incredibly thick skin. Within the first six minutes, I can safely say I’ve related to Katy as much as any other companion that I’ve known for years.
There’s a great little easter egg that Simon Guerrier pops into this tale, an author of a book has a somewhat familiar name, and I’m sure will have Big Finish fans jumping up and down with glee; it’s a great little addition and just goes to remind you just how small the universe is, and how mysterious it can be. There’s no such thing as a coincidence, after all.
It’s not too long before the Doctor finds himself embroiled in a bit of a brutal mystery, as the village fair he’s found himself in quickly becomes a witch hunt, with a bonfire ready to burn them alive. Of course, the Doctor, being the moral compass that he is, is willing to try and save the lives of the witches.
I absolutely love how little the Doctor believes in the Carrionites existence as witches; instead being adamant that there has to be another explanation. He, along with Katy, are attempting to use logic and reason to defeat them, but the Carrionites are much more powerful than even a Lord of Time.
The unusual thing about The Carrionite Curse is that the story seems to have come to a conclusion around halfway through, and it would have been a satisfactory story in itself. With this being a Doctor Who story though, nothing is as simple as it seems.
Katy’s first foray onto the TARDIS is absolutely brilliant, and somewhat of a unique take on the classic scenario. The best thing about Guerrier’s script is that, because the action started the story, we’re able to have these smaller, more intimate moments later on, acting as a break in pace. Personally, I thought that this was a refreshing way to tell a story, and it really draws you in.
The second half of the story is much more of a mystery than an action adventure; it reminds me of an Indiana Jones tale, but told the other way around. There’s plenty of twists and turns, and the Carrionites are seemingly more powerful and intelligent than they were in The Shakespeare Code.
The conclusion of The Carrionite Curse is yet again another bittersweet one from Big Finish; the Doctor can’t save everyone all the time, and sometimes he has to come to terms with it. With allusions of what is soon to come for the Sixth Doctor, it seems even more poignant that he has to deal with the darker sides of his character, and Guerrier writes it beautifully.
Overall, The Carrionite Curse is an extremely strong story that is filled with complicated vocabulary, eloquence and destruction. If that’s not what you want from an audio drama, I frankly don’t know what is. Colin Baker gives an exemplary performance as the Sixth Doctor, and Maya Sondhi is stellar as Katy Bell; I just wish she’ll return to Big Finish in the future.
Should you want to purchase Classic Doctors, New Monsters: Volume Two, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £23 on CD or £20 for a digital download for a limited time.