The first two stories in this “Mags Trilogy” scored a three, then a two. Does story number three hold up any better? Well… no, not really. After the disaster that has been the Ace/Mel stories, these have sadly continued the trend of poor Seventh Doctor audios, which is a shame because that particular Doctor used to be the highlight of the Main Range. Well, let’s take a look at this one, anyway…
A space-time summons brings the TARDIS to the strangest place Mags has yet visited. A haven for the freakiest freaks and the weirdest weirdoes: Camden Lock, London, in the early 1990s.
But there’s a reason why former TARDIS traveler Ace has brought the old gang back together. She’s on a mission to rescue an alien being, held prisoner in a massive mansion…
A mission that can’t possibly go wrong. Can it?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) – The Doctor received a message from an Earth-based Ace and has taken Mags to meet her, not knowing just what kind of threat awaits them…
Mags (Jessica Martin) – Mags is still having some issues controlling her transformation, but is happy to follow The Doctor to Earth and meet back up with Ace.
Ace (Sophie Aldred) – Ace is living on Earth, going by the name “McShane” either again, or still… I don’t know where in her timeline this is placed. Anyway, she has had a tip-off of aliens living in secret and has contacted The Doctor…
Rufus (Jacob Collins Levy) – Rufus is a vampire who was left to burn in the Australian outback, and now he wants revenge on the family that put him there…
Rohesia and Raymond Ferat (Lara Lemon and Gideon Turner) – Members of the Feratu clan, formally known as Nosferatu. They are able to live normal lives thanks to an alien they captured that they have nicknamed “The Sin Eater”…
The Sin-Eater (Shiloh Coke) – An alien that can take away the vampiric nature of the Ferat clan for “twelve moons”, and due to this has spent countless years locked away…
As per usual it wasn’t all bad, the sound design was good, Sylvester McCoy seemingly had a great time saying the word “Nosferatu”, and on that note I did like the idea of an old Vampire clan “going native” and finding a way to suppress their powers so they can live a normal life on Earth, albeit one where they’re immortal. The fact they achieve this by keeping an admittedly innocent alien chained up in their cellar does diminish their nicety somewhat, but hey-ho. The member of their clan later known as Rufus becoming able to walk in the sunlight because he slowly, over hundreds of years, exposed himself to the harmful rays little by little was good too, ruined slightly by lots of Aussie jokes (though I believe Rufus’ actor is actually Australian, unlike some of his co-stars…)
Actually now I think of it, the Sin-Eater isn’t a bad idea for a character, and the fact it can take on other people’s forms is quite good for storytelling purposes later, even if I’d only just finished a story with a similar concept last week… (see the Continuity section below for more details!)
A good cover, as they tend to be nowadays, but why is Ace so front and centre?
What’s “The Bad”? Pretty much everything. Which is weird as, yeah, sometimes Alan Barnes can churn out a dull, middle-of-the-road story (he does write 100 a day, seemingly) but rarely are they actually bad. The absolute worse offender is the first half of Episode 4, where The Doctor literally sits down Ace and the two Ferat vampires (who want to stop Rufus as much as The Doctor and Ace do by this point) and tell them how he escaped his predicament for a good seven or eight minutes, at one point getting annoyed at being interrupted from his “exposition”. He actually just said he was just sitting down and given exposition! That was immediately followed by a long scene where the lead villain Rufus explains his plan in detail in the guise of a sit-down TV interview (with two people putting on very bad Aussie accents). Three episodes of mostly dancing around the core story, and then suddenly get it all dumped on us in 15 minutes with no effort to hide it. There is no other way to put it other than it was really lazy writing.
Other ways the story just ate time was repeated flashbacks to the cliffhanger of Episode 1, where Mags turns into a werewolf and gets into the scuffle with the Sin-Eater. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the same few sentences repeated, not to mention it leaves Mags with memory loss for most of the story, which is resolved by Ace arriving at the start of Episode 4 and Mags going “Ace, I remember everything!” and that was it. Mags also gave two of the absolute worst “Nooooo!”s ever as the cliffhangers for Episodes 2 and 3, with the former being after a slightly sinister Doctor said he would look after her, which… well, wasn’t very dramatic.
Did I mention the non-Rufus Aussies having terrible accents? Also, due to involving Vampires, there were a lot of embarrassing hisses and snarls, including from people with bad Aussie accents, which was an interesting combination. In the end the two Ferats give their lives to destroy the vampires they’d created (including Rufus) in a scene that is so similar to the ending of our previous story that Mags said it was exactly how The Doctor solved the problem last time, which is at least honest of the writer, I guess. Ace did very little in the end, and was on Earth but being called McShane, which is just completely confusing, timeline-wise…
So yeah, my main complaint is that it was poorly written, which as for a review of a story goes, is pretty damning!
Nothing to directly tie this into anything, especially as Ace’s continuity is all over the place here, though there is a call back to the previous story, as mentioned in the bad. Also as mentioned in the above text is the Ninth Doctor comic story “Sin Eaters“, which has beings that can take on the form of others by being forcibly fed their sins, so a little different, but a funny coincidence given I only reviewed it last week!
There are a few small things, like Mags is taken to St. Garts Hospital, the very hospital where Hex was working in “The Harvest”. The Doctor visits two of his London-based houses: the one on Allen Road from the Seventh Doctor Comic “Fellow Travellers”, and 107 Baker Street, which first appeared in the Fifth Doctor audio “The Haunting of Thomas Brewster” and has made several appearances afterwards.
An Alien Werewolf in London is pretty bad, with very little to recommend. It has some good story ideas buried beneath, and McCoy was having a laugh (though whether that’s a good thing or not in some scenes is debatable) but in general is was a mess of lazy writing, bad acting and a general undertone of annoyance. Let’s just pretend the Mags trilogy was a dream and not do any more, yeah?