Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Review: Doctor Who, "The Chimes of Midnight"

My second foray into Doctor Who audio drama, following "Storm Warning", was "The Chimes of Midnight," (116 minutes) released in Feb. 2002 and starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and India Fisher as Charley Pollard.

En route to Singapore for New Year's Eve 1930, the TARDIS instead lands in the pantry of an Edwardian manor on Christmas Eve, 1906. The kitchen appears abandoned, yet the kitchen sink still has warm water in it and preparations for Christmas dinner are still fresh. They seem to be stuck in a time loop. When they extricate themselves, they are still in the scullery, now fully populated - except for Edith, the scullery maid, who is dead, drowned in the kitchen sink.

The Doctor and Charley are trapped in the house. The staff believes they are amateur sleuths, as though they are in a mystery novel, so, while trying to escape from the house, they also try to discover who killed Edith. But when the clock chimes midnight, another body appears. Time moves strangely, and it becomes evident that the house itself is sentient, manipulating time and events for some unknown purpose, and that the dead Edith holds the key to the mystery. As the body count rises, the Doctor realizes that the only way to survive is to understand Edith's life and outwit the sentience in the house.

This is a fun story, though a little repetitious in places (deliberately so, but the repetition still makes the story drag at times). It has elements of a variety of works, from the "Downstairs" part of "Upstairs, Downstairs" to gothic horror (the haunted house) and, of course, some wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.

McGann has a distinctive voice and a calm demeanor as the Doctor that works well. Charley is likable, but not yet fully developed as a character. Instead, she's something of a generic girl companion, though, like Clara in the current TV series, she is something of a mystery herself, having died and yet not died in the R101 airship (see "Storm Warning").

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