DW: The Monsters of Gokroth Review

DW Monsters of Gokroth

This is what happened a few months ago: Big Finish – “Hey, Mags is back for a new trilogy with the Seventh Doctor!” Me – “… Who?” Yes, I didn’t recognise the name, and even when someone said it was the werewolf girl from “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy”, I thought “Oh her… right. Okay then?” Still, as unnecessary a reunion as it is, has it produced a great story? Not really, but it did at least give off a fresh feeling, hearing the Seventh Doctor with a companion other than Ace is a rare thing, if nothing else. So let’s take a deeper look into the Monsters of Gokroth and see where this new trilogy could lead…

Synopsis:

The people of Gokroth live in fear of the monsters in the forest. Creatures with scales and fur, teeth and claws. But worse than these, perhaps, is the strange doctor who does unspeakable, unholy work in the high castle on the mountain…

A doctor who’s about to receive a visit from an off-worlder. Mags, formerly of the Psychic Circus. A native of the planet Vulpana… with a monstrous secret of her own.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – The Doctor has arrived on Gokroth for a very specific reason: Mags, someone he feels he left in need of help, and now he’s getting a bit older (in this incarnation) he wants to go back and correct some mistakes…

Mags (Jessica Martin) – Mags has left the Psychic Circus due to putting the performers and audience at risk, but she has run almost immediately into more trouble, all because she can no longer control her transformations…

Dr. Maleeva (Victoria Yeates) – Dr. Maleeva lives in an isolated castle away from the village, a definite outsider… though her true reason for being on the planet isn’t exactly Frankenstein… in fact, it’s quite the opposite…

Gor (Andrew Fettes) – Gor is the slightly mutated and not very clever assistant and friend of Dr. Maleeva. His devotion to her and her work borderline on obsession.

Varron (Jeremy Hitchen) – Varron is a travelling showman, and in his possession a menagerie of cybernetically controlled monsters, though he’s always on the look out for new additions to his collection!

Trella and Wilric (Abi Harris and Dominic Vulliamy) – Trella and her son Wilric are villagers on Gokroth, constantly living in fear from the monsters in the forest. Trella has finally become desperate enough to ask for help from outsiders, off-worlders even. She may get more than she bargained for…

The Monsters of Gokroth (Andrew Fettes, Abi Harris, and more…) – The so-called Monsters actually have their own village in the forest, can speak and even have their own laws to follow. It’s as if they’re not that different from the villagers who fear them at all…

Plus More!

The Good:

DW Monsters of Gokroth Cover

One thing I have to say though: Fantastic cover!

As I alluded to in the opening paragraph, it is at least nice to not only hear an Ace-less Seventh Doctor, but to hear him with someone who will become a new companion for him, even if it may only end up for three stories (well, two, as Ace is in the third one, apparently…) They don’t share a lot of scenes together, but when they do it’s nice, with The Doctor sounding like he really did just wake up one morning and go “Oh yeah! Mags! She won’t do well away from her home planet and all that… I should see what she’s up to…” and then did it. I imagine there’s probably more to it, but for now it was a nice, more charming side to the often manipulative yet playful (and somewhat arrogant) Doctor. Mags was… fine, her actress at least can still act and play the part, and the werewolf transformation is a lot more convincing in your head than on 80s TV!

Not a lot else to say, though all the characters were well acted, and I enjoyed the cheesy horror movie setting, complete with silly voices, villages and isolated castles, it’s just a shame the story wasn’t all that interesting…

The Bad:

The story, well, wasn’t all that interesting, to repeat myself. The simple-minded “henchman” Gor and the Dr. Frankenstein-like Maleeva, as it turns out, aren’t creating monsters in their castle, but trying to turn people who had already been turned, back into humans, with the monsters being people who were too far gone. A fun twist, I’ll admit, but it came mixed in with a lot of boring villagers, talking monsters (with voices that grate a bit on the ears, and sometimes venture too far into Saturday morning cartoon land) and an old-fashioned travelling showman type with his own, less talkative, monsters. Yes, Mags is brought back and soon finds herself captured by a travelling show to be an exhibition! I can’t quite believe they went back to the one story point already used for the character for her “big return”. It doesn’t last to be fair, but that still had me shaking my head…

Overall though, the story very slowly moves along, until we get to a big finale in the castle, where everything turns out as you’d imagine it would: the showman gets turned on by his own enslaved creatures, the castle burns down and The Doctor finds a way to restore the humanity to most of the villagers, leaving Dr. Maleeva to stay behind with them to build a new society. Everything was perfectly competent (and I actually felt sorry for Gor in the end…) but nothing was all that exciting.

Also, despite how on-the-nose all the Frankenstein references were, they still felt the need to have The Doctor mention that the castle looks like Frankenstein’s lab, and even say that Maleeva was “less Frankenstein” and something different. I got it! No need to ram it home, it wasn’t exactly subtle…

Oh, and I have to mention the cliffhanger to part 2 (I think) where The Doctor, Mags and Wilric are caught between Varron’s Cyber-army and the titular monsters, with The Doctor saying they were “caught between the devil, and the deep blue sea!” great stuff… then Mags says “the two sides are going to fight, and we’re in the middle!” as the end credits music rolls… *sigh*, a great cliffhanger completely ruined by the writer feeling like he had to further explain the plight they were all in. It actually made me laugh it was so out of place! Why would you shout that back, as if they weren’t aware of the situation?!

The Continuity:

Mags only previous appearance was on the Seventh Doctor TV story “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy”.

Ace is said to be “somewhere else” and has been for some time, which probably means this is set during the tail end of the Seventh Doctor’s run (but not so late The Doctor looks like his TV Movie self!), where Ace is on Gallifrey. That would also match up with The Doctor’s attitude during this story…

Overall Thoughts:

The Monsters of Gokroth was fine, it had perfectly fine characters played well by the cast, but at no point was I excited, or tense, or intrigued. The story just… played out, and The Doctor and Mags left in the TARDIS. That was it. Unless the next two stories are so great it’s worth it to see how the trilogy started, I’d skip this one…

3 Star Listen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s