The Doctor parks the TARDIS in orbit of the planet Veln to make some minor repairs, when his time vehicle is further damaged by a toxic gas leaking from a nearby freighter on a collision course. He slips the TARDIS forward by a century and sets down on Veln, finding that the atmosphere is saturated with the same deadly gas. He goes to warn the residents of a nearby mansion of the danger, and leaves Nyssa at the TARDIS. A young woman approaches Nyssa, armed with a scalpel and intent on committing suicide. When the authorities arrive, Nyssa is charged with murder, taken to Veln’s central security block, and is interrogated brutally. The Doctor’s attempts to help are blocked by Lady Forleon, who owns the mansion and seems to have a secret of her own to keep – and her agenda may or may not include preventing the Doctor from trying to rescue Nyssa. In the meantime, blood tests have revealed that Nyssa is an alien, throwing Gilbrook, a Veln security officer, into an increasing state of paranoia. Veln’s own past history with alien visitors hasn’t been pleasant, what with the Koteem freighter which, four generations ago, veered off course to avoid a collision and fatally polluted Veln’s atmosphere…
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), David Daker (Gilbrook), Jemma Churchill (Lady Forleon), Nigel Hastings (Quain), Michael Smiley (Seedleson), Philip Wolff (Murone), Emma Manton (Veline), Nicholas Briggs (Koteem / Moruge Attendant / Police Officer / Guard / Control / Captain Delarphim / Pilot)
Timeline: between Spare Parts and Arc Of Infinity
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: If Quentin Tarantino did Doctor Who, it’d probably come off sounding like this. Creatures Of Beauty takes a novel approach to a fairly standard storyline by fragmenting it, scattering bits of it across all four episodes, and leaving it to the listener to put these pieces into the correct order. Along the way, there are scenes that push the envelope of violence for what we’d normally expect in the Doctor Who format, wisecracking hired guns, and lots of good intentions which only serve to pave an Autobahn to hell, which most of the story’s main characters travel down with great speed. With all the flashing back and flashing forward, I’m surprised it wasn’t easier to get lost in the story. Things do get a bit confusing toward the end, as the jumps backward and forward in the story become more frequent. But if the story were told in a straightforward fashion, it would be largely unremarkable.
Sarah Sutton steals the show as Nyssa in this story, keeping everyone else’s rising emotions anchored by staying rock steady. David Daker, twice a guest star during the Tom Baker years of Doctor Who on TV, turns in a nasty performance as Gilbrook, and though the man is brutal, paranoid, and probably shouldn’t be holding any kind of position of authority, by the end of the story one understands his paranoia quite a bit better. I will give Nick Briggs kudos for crafting something that many have attempted with Doctor Who before – a story where the protagonists and antagonists both stand on morally dubious ground without losing all of the audience’s sympathy. However, while the story is skillfully plotted, the order in which the facts are revealed play a huge part in shaping the listener’s sympathies and conclusions.
An interesting experimental audio outing for the Doctor, but the kind of experiment that I’d prefer to have scheduled sparingly; with Flip-Flop not far behind it, Creatures Of Beauty is indicative of a push for structure over storytelling. Still, Creatures demonstrates a novel way to tell a relatively simple story, and I enjoyed it for the most part – and in a breath of fresh air from Nekromanteia, it has a very low body count!