Review – Doctor Who: Phantasmagoria

Big Finish Audio “Quick Review”

Let me get one thing straight before going into this audio drama review: on a whole I am not a huge fan of most 1980’s Doctor Who stories when stacked up to anything else.  I buy the DVDs, watch all of the stories, and read the comics, but I prefer the modern way the show is told, or just about anything before John Nathan Turner took the show over.  Not that I don’t like the actors that played the Doctor during this time, I just find the show a tad “hit or miss” in the decade of excess.  The audio plays, as a whole, have helped me really appreciate those actors that I may have never given much of a chance to.  This can be attributed to both maturity of the actors, and let’s face it, solid production quality.  I went into Phantasmagoria assuming that I would not like it due to it starring Peter Davison, and was greatly surprised to find a well acted, well written, if somewhat goofy episode.

I had heard of Phantasmagoria long before I actually listened to the production, as it was written by mark Gatiss, and was supposedly the template for his 2005 televised episode The Unquiet Dead.  I’m not sure where folks keep dragging that up, as the two stories have nothing in common save the period setting.  The play stars the Fifth Doctor and Turlough as played by Peter Davison and Mark Strickson respectively.  Aside from the usual cast of Big Finish Players, I did notice cameos from Mark Gatiss and David Williams, who later went on the create the super popular show Little Britain is side roles, so that was fun playing “spot the person whose voice I know”.

The Story involves The Doctor’s arrival in London of 1702, a time of highwaymen and strange disappearances.  When folks start to turn up dead clutching playing cards, a local occultist seems to think that spirits are on the loose, but the doctor thinks differently.

Being early in the Big Finish run, I would like to cut this play some slack due to its early release (being the second one made), but I can honestly say that for all the good in this episode, there was unfortunately some bad as well.  The one thing I really picked up on was that a few of the actors took to their roles a bit too much, if you get my drift and came across a bit too campy for my taste.  This would be commonplace for the TV show at the time, but audio dramas are a bit different.

All in all Phantasmagoria is better than the Sirens of Time simply by having a better, less convoluted narrative, but still suffers by being early in the run.  The acting, sound effects, and story are pretty solid, but the play suffers from a few over-actors, and a bit of storyline padding.  Big Finish is just hitting their stride, can’t wait to listen to the next one.

My Rating 3.25 out of 5

 

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