The Fearmonger

Doctor Who: The FearmongerIn the present day, the Doctor and Ace arrive in a London gripped by fear. Terrorists seem to be going to extreme lengths to rid Britain of the ultra-right-wing New Britannia party and its Parliamentary candidate, Sherilyn Harper. The Doctor unceremoniously bursts in on Mick Thompson’s political talk radio show to make contact with a man named Walter who, with an accomplice who is now institutionalized, attempted to assassinate Harper and barely escaped with their lives after being attacked by…something. The Doctor postulates that the deadly entity is a non-corporeal creature which incites fear among its victims – and then feeds off that fear, often leaving the victims traumatized for life. Walter says that he can hear this creature in the voice of Sherilyn Harper, but as the crisis worsens and the streets become even more infested with terrorists – some of whom are not political agitators, but hired guns – it becomes apparent that the Fearmonger could be using anyone as its host… even, as Ace comes to believe, the Doctor himself.

Order this CDwritten by Jonathan Blum
directed by Gary Russell
music by Alistair Lock

Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Jacqueline Pearce (Sherilyn Harper), Mark McDonnell (Walter Jacobs), Vince Henderson (Mick Thompson), Hugh Walters (Roderick Allingham), Jonathan Clarkson (Paul Tanner), Jack Gallagher (Alexsandr Karadjic), Mark Wright (Stephen Keyser), John Ainsworth (Tannoy voice)

Timeline: between Survival and The Genocide Machine

LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green

Review: Leave it to Jonathan Blum! This first Audio Adventure set not long after Doctor Who’s 26th and final year on television perfectly captures the essence of the seventh Doctor and Ace, and Blum has a crystal-clear understanding of the kinds of twists and turns and upheavals that made that 26th season so memorable. Even though The Fearmonger sticks to the formula of Doctor-knows-what’s-going-on-but-isn’t-telling (and Ace-feels-betrayed-by-the-Doctor-but-comes-around-cathartically), Blum keeps it from feeling like a formulaic plotline. The Fearmonger, on first listening, tied Land Of The Dead for my favorite Audio Adventure thus far. It’s absolutely brilliant, and fits in wonderfully with that season 26 atmosphere.

Doctor Who and the FearmongerBlum’s wonderfully crafted cast of supporting characters include the dangerously paranoid Walter, conniving Roderick, Ace’s wishy-washy friend Paul, and the complex character of Sherilyn Harper. This latter character is well-served by what appears to be typecasting Jacqueline Pearce into yet another Servalan-esque role, and yet she turns out not to be the monster Walter assumes she is – aside from her outrageous ideas on campaign publicity (but saying more than that would ruin a twist in the story). Arrogant radio host Mick Thopmpson is another richly-painted character, very much in the Rush Limbaugh mode (this is one character I feel that only an American export like Jon could have created, because the Thompson/Limbaugh parallels are very obvious and very cutting).

The final scene of episode four is…well, let’s put it this way. It’s every bit the scene-stealing, end-of-the-season chiller that the last ten minutes of Survival were, and then some. Indeed, all of The Fearmonger‘s episodic cliffhangers are real nail-biters, very high stakes stuff. Especially the end of episode two (even though we know that both of the regulars will of course survive to plow through the New Adventures novels and future Audio Adventures).

Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred pick up their characterizations of the Doctor and Ace as if the series only ended last year and not a decade ago, and it’s always wonderful to hear Jackie Pearce again, especially after some of the strange dialogue that she had to deal with in 1998’s pair of Blake’s 7 radio plays.

Are the Audio Adventures the ultimate, and perhaps best, medium for Doctor Who? If Land Of The Dead and The Fearmonger are any indication, they may very well be.