After a particularly harrowing adventure, the Doctor promises to take Ace and Hex somewhere where they can all relax, and by virtue of having both a spa and a beer tent, the Festival of the Twin Moons of Tuin wins the toss. But of course, the Doctor hasn’t shared everything he knows about Tuin: the societies of its twin moons, despite being very closely related biologically, are locked in a seemingly endless war, from which the Festival is the only break in hostilities. Furthermore, the Doctor takes it upon himself to bring that war to an end, having read some local lore. He declares himself the suitor to an unknown bride, the marriage of whom will bring peace to Tuin at last. But instead of being one step ahead of the game, this time the Doctor’s information is woefully incomplete, as he has no idea who he’ll be marrying. And even when the bride is revealed, the Doctor discovers that the peace their wedding vows will bring will not be the peace of a war ended, but the peace of a dead world.
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hex), Danny Webb (Ori), Andy B Newb (Irit), Benny Dawb (Tuin), Katarina Olsson (Bard), Sean Connolly (Bard)
Timeline: between Nocturne and Forty-Five
LogBook entry and TheatEar entry by Earl Green
Review: A bizarrely dark metaphysical comedy, The Dark Husband is a bit misleading at several points in the story, but it certainly keeps you on your toes. It’s not like anything that’s been done in Doctor Who before, audio or television, though some longtime fans might find some similarities to the logic trap posed in the classic series phrase “Who who loses shall win, and he who wins shall lose” – it’s that kind of crafty misdirection.
The first episode is almost like a completely different plotline, full of action and jeopardy and explanations of why none of the aliens in the story are willing to call Hex “Hex.” The remaining three episodes play out the mystery behind the “wedding,” though they do drag on just a bit. The Dark Husband is almost like what you’d get if you tried to drag a new series episode out to the length of a classic series four-parter: a lot of padding and a lot of talk, neither of which necessarily move things forward. When there is action, it’s over and done with almost too quickly. This isn’t to say that there aren’t lots of entertaining developments, whether it’s Hex’s disappointment that the beer isn’t real beer, or the inevitable sparks that fly upon the revelation of the bride’s identity (you can relax, it’s not Iris Wyldthyme – for some reason, until I listened to The Dark Husband for myself, I was worried that it might be). But there’s also a lot of time spent interpreting the lore of Tuin, a process which alternates between entertaining (the stone bards) and plodding (much of episode four).
An interesting experimental story, The Dark Husband just needed a quick and dirty fling with some better pacing before tying the knot.