The Doctor and Frobisher are in deep trouble. The TARDIS has “gone on strike,” and the Doctor is forced to surrender control to the ship itself. It brings them to a castle whose occupants live by a bizarre set of rituals: their king isn’t just a monarch, but a living god to be worshipped by his subjects. However, whenever the king dies, the religion built around him is declared false, a select number of subjects are executed for heresy, the rest of the heretics much formally change their religion to follow the new god (the incoming king), and the bible must be rewritten from scratch. But by sheer bad luck, the arrival of the TARDIS is hailed as a miracle, as it occurs on the coronation/ ascension day of the new god-king – a timid man who doesn’t want the position at all. To avoid his fate, the new ruler abdicates and declares Frobisher to be the new god – and since Frobisher is a talking penguin who emerged from a “blue temple” which appeared out of thin air, most of the people have no qualms about worshipping him. To his credit, the well-meaning whifferdill tries to instill a sense of free choice upon his subjects, introducing them to concepts such as democracy and mercy. But deep within the castle, something else is brewing – a devastating evil which some think will be the new messiah. But its true destiny is to murder every last person in the kingdom until it finds one man – and there is nothing the Doctor or Frobisher can do to stop it.
Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Robert Jezek (Frobisher), Dan Hogarth (Sejanus), Sam Kelly (Tacitus), Roberta Taylor (Berengaria), Helen Punt (Livilla), Peter Guiness (Childeric), Stefan Atkinson (Pepin), Peter Sowerbutts (Clovis), Bruce Mann (Arnulf)
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: What a bizarre story! Things start out light and comical, and then grow very dark indeed over the four episodes. The final episode delves into conceptual territory dark enough to rival Stephen King. The gradual shift in emphasis and tone catch the listener quite off-guard, and the end result is one of the most entertaining and densely-packed storytelling exercises to emerge from the Audio Adventures to date.
First, a little word about Frobisher, a whifferdill shapeshifter who spends most of his time stuck in the form of a penguin. Frobisher was a product of Doctor Who Monthly’s comic strip adventures of the sixth Doctor in the 1980s, and has gradually crept into other media such as one of the BBC novels and now the Audio Adventures. (At this rate, I expect to hear Abslom Daak in one of the upcoming Dalek audios just any month now.) Robert Jezek gives Frobisher a perfect voice treatment, a kind of wise-cracking quasi-Brooklyn accent which fits the character very well. I remember some of Frobisher’s comic strip adventures, and with a voice to go along with the image, it all falls into place. Here’s hoping that the response to this story is positive enough that Big Finish Productions may consider pairing the sixth Doctor with Frobisher again someday. By the look of things, it probably won’t happen in 2001, but nothing’s impossible. Considering that Big Finish has also spun Bernice Summerfield and now Iris Wyldthyme off into their own audio adventures, perhaps Frobisher will ride solo in the future.
The cast of this excellent adventure is one of the best assembled yet for one of the Big Finish outings, with Peter Guinness providing a chilling vocalization for the evil Childeric. One pivotal character, who only appears in episode three, is incredibly unnerving in its vocal portrayal …but to say more than that might give away some of the most interesting turns in the plot.
This is one of the best ones. With this, the previous adventure set in the New Adventures era, and the upcoming Eighth Doctor stories planned for the first four months of 2001, one gets the impression that Big Finish is truly giving the Doctor Who franchise its most visionary treatment in many years. Maybe they should get the license to do this on film?