The Demons Of Red Lodge and Other Stories

Doctor WhoThe Demons Of Red Lodge: The Doctor and Nyssa awaken in the dark, surrounded by creatures that almost certainly mean them harm. Even the Doctor has to fight down a panic response to find a way out of the situation, until the time travelers encounter a seemingly friendly face who offers them shelter. They quickly discover the truth: they’re now locked in with something even worse.

The Entropy Composition: The Doctor, sensing that Nyssa is missing pleasant reminders of her home planet, takes her to the vast archives of recorded music on the planet Conchordia. But before they can explore the history of Traken’s music, they encounter another piece of music, a wall of sound capable of ripping living matter apart. The Doctor must track it back to its origins as a lost prog rock opus created under alien influence.

Doing Time: The Doctor, thanks to his suspicious use of the alias “John Smith”, is sentenced to serve time in a prison facility whose governor has loftier political ambitions. The Doctor came here to warn of a devastation explosion a few months into the future; he’s horrified when the prison’s corrupt governor decides to ensure that the explosion happens as part of an arranged election year publicity stunt.

Special Features: Recording commences on a DVD commentary for an early ’70s horror film, with two of the troubled movie’s surviving cast members, its director, and historical advisor Doctor John Smith in attendance. The movie is a heavily fictionalized chronicle of a legendary haunting at Red Lodge. Two of those participating in the commentary were there to witness the actual events: the creature who inhabited helpless victims to ensure its survival, and the Time Lord who tried to stop it. Their battle is not finished until the end credits roll.

Order this CDThe Demons Of Red Lodge written by Jason Arnopp
The Entropy Composition written by Rick Briggs
Doing Time written by William Gallagher
Special Features written by John Dorney
directed by Ken Bentley
music by Richard Fox & Lauren Yason

The Demons Of Red Lodge Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Susan Kyd (Emily Cobham / Ivy Cobham), Duncan Wisbey (Villager), John Dorney (Villager)

The Entropy Composition Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Andree Bernard (Erisi), Ian Brooker (Naloom), Joanna Munro (Mrs. Moloney), James Fleet (Geoff Cooper)

Doing Time Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), John Dorney (Janson Hart), Susan Kyd (Governor Chaplin), Duncan Wisbey (Dask / Judge / Jabreth / Hobbling Pete)

Special Features Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), James Fleet (Martin Ashcroft / Sir Jack Merrivale), Ian Brooker (Professor Bromley / Narrator), Joanna Munro (Johanna Bourke / Carlotta), John Dorney (Mr. Pinfield / Yokel / Running Man / Carriage Driver)

Notes: In The Entropy Composition, the Doctor and Nyssa discuss primal acoustic echoes of the creation of the universe, also known as “the music of the spheres.” That also happens to be the title of a humorous short starring David Tennant as the tenth Doctor, shown live to an audience at the BBC Proms Doctor Who concert in 2008, and while your mileage may vary as to whether the Tennant short (or, indeed, this audio) are “canon”, the may both involve the same “music of the spheres.” The single-episode story Special Features required multiple scripts and recording sessions: one for the sound and dialogue of the “movie” running in the background throughout the story, and one for the foreground story involving the Doctor, resulting in what was considered one of the most complex productions Big Finish had ever assembled at the time of its release.

LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green

Review: Sometimes there just aren’t adequate words for how enjoyable the four-single-story anthology releases are; since Big Finish has gotten into the habit of releasing one such anthology each year, it’s become one of the audio releases to which I look forward the most. The Demons Of Red Lodge is certainly no exception, subtly linking its stories together and yet allowing them to remain separate, individual tales.

The fifth Doctor and Nyssa seem to be particularly well suited to the anthology releases, though this pairing is plot-critical in the anthology’s “title track”, which hinges upon the fact that neither the Doctor nor Nyssa are human beings. It’s also a bit of a revelation in that Nyssa demonstrates, quite clearly, that she also isn’t operating on a human level of morality. Much like she does in Castle Of Fear, Nyssa proves that her pragmatic solutions to some situations read as “ruthless”. The common conception of Nyssa is that she’s a bit of a delicate snowflake who cringes when mud gets in her shoes, or handily drops off everything but her underwear when she’s running a high fever; that makes it a little too easy to forget that she’s the same Nyssa who grabs a gun and takes on the guards on Gallifrey (Arc Of Infinity). It’s a bit of a shock when Nyssa takes decisive action that even the Doctor can’t bear to watch… and yet, not subscribing to a strictly human morality himself, he doesn’t exactly scold her either.

The Entropy Composition is a fun trip back to the 1960s to tackle a horror of prog rock, with Nyssa trying to adopt rock ‘n’ roll slang, the Doctor complaining that psychedelic rock offends his delicate sensibilities, and other fun moments. (For those who think it’s fun to juxtapose this most refined, upper-crust TARDIS team of them all with the age of grooviness, check out the later audio story Fanfare For The Common Men.). Doing Time is a fairly simple tale, though the notion of the Doctor serving a long prison sentence had already been outdone in print (“Seeing I”), in other audio stories (Return Of The Daleks), and would be trumped solidly on TV (The Time Of The Doctor).

Special Features tops off the cake with a delightful poke-in-the-eye for one of audio drama’s main competitors – namely, sitting back and rewatching something you’ve already seen, but this time with the cast and crew talking over the whole thing. The Doctor snarks that little of substance is being said, to which one of the other characters replies, “You’ve not watched many DVD commentaries, have you?” (To be fair, the commentaries are often the highlights on vintage Doctor Who TV episodes released on DVD, but DVD cast-and-crew commentaries don’t always luck out like that.) Davison is often positively garrolous on DVD commentaries from his era of Doctor Who, so to hear the fifth Doctor being ill-at-ease, circumspect, and not-speaking-unless-spoken-to for much of the story is hilarious in its own metafictional way.

As is often the case with the annual anthology from8 Big Finish, each story is a self-contained gem displaying remarkable economy of storytelling (and, without Obligatory Big Cliffhanger Moments to fall back on, no small amount of discipline from a writing viewpoint). Part of me would love to write one of these one-offs – and part of me worries that it wouldn’t be as good as the one-episode wonders I’ve heard so far.