After what I felt was the first weak story in the Fifth Doctor / Adric / Nyssa / Tegan audios with Ghost Walk, I’m happy to report that Serpent in the Silver Mask is back to being great fun, with plenty of humour and a really fun murder mystery plot. Let’s take a look at this… Doctor Whodunnit! … Sorry (also goes without saying, as I always put a spoiler warning, but as this is a murder mystery it’s best to skip to the “overall thoughts” and see if it sounds good if you haven’t listened to it yourself yet…)
You are cordially invited to Argentia, the galaxy’s most exclusive tax haven, to attend the funeral of mining magnate Carlo Mazzini. The memorial service will be followed by music, light refreshments, and murder!
Carlo’s heirs have come to say their final goodbyes (and find out how much they’ve inherited) but when a masked killer begins picking them off one by one, Argentia goes into lock-down, closed off behind its own temporal displacement field.
Can the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric apprehend the murderer before Argentia – and everyone on board – is forever cut off from the rest of the Universe?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Doctor (Peter Davison) – The Doctor has taken his companions to Argentia in order to find a specific crystal that could net him a new sonic screwdriver… Of course, a murder or two occurs, so… Maybe next time?
Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) – Adric is somewhat intrigued by the city-in-space that is Argentia, but he can’t say he likes the party atmosphere much…
Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) – Nyssa is once again in unfamiliar surroundings, but is willing to try and blend in, and, you know, help with the murder investigations…
Tegan (Janet Fielding) – Tegan is wondering if she’ll ever have a normal day again, let alone make it back to her time. Still, a fancy party, good food… oh, a bit of death again… Great.
The Mazzini Family (Samuel West) – A group of spoilt and corrupt rich people, with one or two exceptions. The fortune one is set to inherit could mean a real change for someone… and a lot of death.
Superintendent Galgo (Phil Cornwell) – Head of security on Argentia, which sounds impressive, except for the fact that nothing remotely exciting happens here, especially not any kind of murder…
Another top quality cover, which is impressive given how large the main cast is.
For starters the general premise is great fun, with a murder mystery based around unworthy inheritors of a vast fortune being killed one by one. It’s apparently based off of “Kind Hearts and Coronets”, a 1949 film staring Alec Guinness, and much like that film (again, apparently!) the central family is played by one actor. Samuel West is brilliant here, playing multiple completely different people in one story, even a pair of dopey teen twins who constantly argue with each other, and the older female Maria (who comes on to The Doctor in a particularly funny scene). Now it’s been two days since I listened to this and nowhere on the net does anywhere actually list the different family member’s names (not even Big Finish themselves!) so I appolgise for the lack of specific names, but the son of Carlo Mazzini, the first person to be offed after he inherits his Dad’s fortune all by himself, turns out to be the killer here in a very Doctor Who-y twist. He went forward in time to see his future (something that’s illegal in this world) and sees that he is killed, and several other people too, until the inheritance goes to waste with the dopey twins, so he decides to hatch a plot where he inherits the money and kills everyone else.
Along with the help of his assistant Sofia, he starts by killing his younger self so he no longer registers on the Argentia’s body scan technology. He believes when he and Sofia escape and seal the station in time the paradox won’t catch up to him. It’s one of those really weird thoughts but fun. Sadly for him The Doctor undoes his plan and sure enough, the paradox erases him. It was a fun end, and I really liked the long run of him sounding like an old Saturday morning cartoon lizard villain, though why he felt the need to go that far I’m not sure (I’m pretty sure just the mask would’ve done…)
The regular cast get plenty to do. The Doctor seems to relish the chance to solve a tough problem, and his run in Part 3, mostly behind bars and talking to a nearby robot, is great. When he returns he says how refreshing it was to stop in the middle of a puzzle and try and solve it, rather than solving it on the run. Tegan gets a love interest in the only actually good Mazzini family member, and Adric and Nyssa get a few good scenes each, based around solving one or two of the murders.
I also have to praise Superintendent Galgo, who played a great straight-laced policeman who actually trusts The Doctor for a good while before the inevitable suspecting of him. Good fun.
The only thing I really had a problem with was a group of old children’s toys that had created a society for themselves in the vents (after being discarded for being to needy). It was sort of funny, but also tacked on for a quick gag and then thrown out there towards the end as a distraction, but it just seemed… out of place, and kind of ruined the mood when the villain got his comeuppance.
Also Sofia is quite dull in a play full of larger-than-life characters, but then she doesn’t have a great deal of metaphorical screen time, so…
Not a lot to say here either. The Doctor is trying to create a new Sonic Screwdriver after his old one was destroyed in the Fifth Doctor TV story “The Visitation”.
Serpent in the Silver Mask is a great murder mystery, with some good old fashioned Doctor Who space and time travel thrown into the mix. The regular cast get plenty to do, and the guest cast is excellent. Highly recommended…