In the Divergent dimension, the TARDIS is barely able to maintain its shape, dimensions and function, struggling to keep itself intact in a pocket universe where the normal physical laws do not apply. It brings the Doctor and Charley – who stowed away aboard the TARDIS after the Doctor’s harrowing battle with Zagreus – to what seems to be a dark void. The Doctor and Charley finds themselves battered by deafening, disjointed repetitions of their own words in their own voices, and the Doctor surmises that they’re dealing with a creature made of pure sound. But Charley, preoccupied with her unrequited feelings for the Doctor, isn’t as fascinated by the experience. And before either of them knows it, they’re trapped, together alone at the whim of an unseen, and yet incomprehensibly heard, tormentor.
Cast: Paul McGann (The Doctor), India Fisher (Charley)
Note: There is no musical score in this story.
Timeline: after Zagreus and before Creed Of The Kromon
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: It’s been tried before with the likes of Whispers Of Terror and Embrace The Darkness and …Ish, but finally I think Big Finish has done it. Scherzo is that story that so many have tried to tell before, a story that could only be told with sound and wouldn’t have worked on TV. It’s done brilliantly so here, in yet another story about the horrors of isolation from Rob Shearman (Rob, buddy, are there some issues we need to talk about?). And perversely enough given its title, Scherzo has almost no music to break things up or signal a passage of time. In some ways, it’s the Intersections In Real Time of Doctor Who, with all of the disturbing implications that comparison carries. With only Paul McGann and India Fisher to carry the story, it’s also one of the most intense character studies we’ve gotten in the Doctor’s audio adventures, and judging by fan chatter on message boards, perhaps more intense than some would’ve liked.
At the heart of the story is Charley’s unrequited romantic interest in the Doctor, but even with the reciprocal expression of affection that the Doctor begrudgingly, eventually admits, I don’t think this is quite what the naysayers think it is. Granted, I’m listening to these stories in the correct order, avoiding spoilers, and generally trying to avoid any preconceptions, so I don’t know how this relationship carries forward to Creed Of The Kromon and beyond. But it’s all very subject to interpretation, and it’s not something that’s sexualized in any way – the Doctor even admits that he doesn’t know what it means to admit that he loves Charley. Keeping in mind that this is the same Doctor who planted a mighty smooch on his sidekick Grace in the 1996 TV movie, it may mean that there’s an interesting exploration in store down the road, and I found that this confusion on the Doctor’s part also meshes quite well with one of my all-time favorite New Adventures novels, Human Nature. I’m as open-minded to the Doctor trying to figure out these feelings as I am to, say, Scream Of The Shalka‘s portrayal of a reclusive, morose Doctor.
I can’t really say much more than that without spoiling things, and Scherzo is definitely a story that deserves to be heard with all of the possible surprise intact. I’d also like to remind everyone that Rob Shearman is going to be lending his talents to the new TV series as well, and so help me, even if it’s about the horrors of isolation, his track record gives his contributions a better-than-even shot of being worth watching. Just as this story’s worth listening to.