The Ninth Doctor is back on audio for another set of three stories, and while the third and final act rightfully has all the attention how do these first two stories fare? A mixed bag, frankly, though both feel very of-era and pass an hour with another set of great performances from Mr. Eccelston. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Synopsis (of Episode 1 “The Hunting Season”):
Duberry Hall is under siege, as aliens maraud through the estate. It’s a frightful business, and as Lord Hawthorn battles the Fleshkin, the Doctor finds new friends below stairs. Can he convince the household to unite to save itself?
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
I don’t remember hearing about horrible tentacle creatures from the depths of hell in Macbeth… Maybe I’ll check it out now!
Episode 2 “The Curse of Lady Macbeth” is a fun story. The Doctor meets Lady Macbeth herself (Neve McIntosh) on the moors and is mistaken for a demon but eventually convinces the infamous Queen to take him back to her castle. It’s here we get a very Russell T. Davies era plot point as Macbeth’s son is seen drawing “horrible shades” on the wall, mute because he can’t but their horrible nature into words, which then combines with babies being left at the castle door without a mouth or nose and yet they can be heard breathing. Lots of creepy stuff basically! I’ll admit I don’t know much about the Shakespeare play, I did Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet in school and watched the Hollow Crown TV films (some more than once!) but I’ve not experienced “the cursed play” so I’m sure some amusing callbacks were lost to me, beyond the very obvious key plot point concerning Lady Macbeth and her husband anyway…
As the story moves on we have some old Scottish warriors attacking nightmarish creatures and a look at the lady behind the story and how maybe she wasn’t as cold and heartless as Shakespeare portrayed her. The horrors (whose name escapes me) are beaten by a combination of human willpower and Doctor trickery and Macbeth’s son gets his voice back, so all is well as our heroic Time Lord departs. It’s a fun story, nothing that will blow you away but I was at least kept entertained throughout. If you’re more familiar with the play or setting I image you’d get more out of it!
The cover certainly make the story look far more exciting than it actually is…
Episode 1, “The Hunting Season”, sees the return of my least favourite time period and setting: a posh manor house in the late 19th century / early 20th. You have your arrogant aristocrat in Lord Hawthorn (Alex Jennings), his even more spoiled daughter Isabel (Allegra Marland) and the whole house staff stereotype set of super-serious and harsh butler Streatham (Don Gilet), loveable older woman servant Mrs. Goose (Annette Badland) and younger female servant who has big dreams in Alice (Tilly Steele) What is different is that “Duberry Hall” is being assaulted by a group of aliens called “Fleshkin” at night, so after The Doctor rightfully takes the pee out of the time period and its people he eventually gets Hawthorn to agree to allow him to speak to the Fleshkin after the Lord had killed one of their kind in order to avoid a massacre but when he gets there the Time Lord finds that they’re after Lord Hawthorn because he is actually an alien hiding on Earth who is an enemy to their kind. The Doctor doesn’t believe it and says the image could be faulty as none of the Fleshkin had actually seen the person, but what was supposed to direct the listener towards suspecting the kill-hungry Isabel or really nasty Streatham turns out to be nothing of the sort as it actually WAS Hawthorn. The Hall is set ablaze, a Fleshkin kills Hawthorn and The Doctor sends Alice away to London to fulfil her dreams.
It’s a perfectly fine little story, though even putting aside my dislike of the setting there isn’t a lot original here. I did like how the Doctor was mistaken for a survivor of the Great War due to his “eyes betraying him”, it’s a rare nod to the Time War in these early Ninth Doctor adventures…
Of course the new Cyberman design from the next story is front and centre, but at least the other stories make up the background!
Like a lot of these Ninth Doctor audios there isn’t much continuity. The Doctor laments accidentally landing in Scotland “again” and says he’s “waiting for the Zygon to show up” making a reference to classic Fourth Doctor TV story “Terror of the Zygons”, but that’s about it!
“The Curse of Lady Macbeth” was a fun story to follow and while not as interesting (mainly a personal thing due to the setting) “The Hunting Season” wasn’t exactly bad either. They both fit well into the Series 1 / Ninth Doctor era and had strong performances throughout. A good start to the set!
The Curse of Lady Macbeth:
The Hunting Season: