The Doctor brings Ace and Hex to Glast City on the planet Nocturne, home of the Artists’ Enclave, a community of poets, musicians, writers and other creative types, which happens to be one of the Doctor’s favorite places in the universe. But death seems to arrive on the Doctor’s heels: one of the community’s prominent artists is murdered and his home is set ablaze. Hex arrives to try to help, but he’s found by the authorities and arrested on suspicion of murder. The Doctor arrives to vouch for him, but that only brings the Time Lord – and his history of unauthorized visits to Nocturne – to the attention of the city’s security forces. He discovers that someone has been conducting experiments in bioharmonics, the science of living sound, and may have summoned a dark force to Nocture. But by the time there are more deaths for the security forces to investigate, they’ve already decided that the Doctor is their prime suspect.
Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Philip Olivier (Hex), Trevor Bannister (Korbin Thessinger), Paul David-Gough (Will Alloran), Eric Potts (Lothar Ragpole), Ann Rye (Lilian Dillane), Helen Kay (Cate Reeney)
Notes: Nocturne was the final Doctor Who audio to use the centered-logo cover template established in the earliest Big Finish releases. The following release, Renaissance Of The Daleks, began using a new cover template inspired by the covers of Virgin Publishing’s Doctor Who Missing Adventures novels, although that cover design had already appeared on the first Companion Chronicles CD releases.
Timeline: between No Man’s Land and The Dark Husband
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: The Doctor, Hex and Ace finally get back to the future, so to speak, and it’s a welcome departure after a string of trips into Earth history. Since the earliest days of Big Finish’s Doctor Who license, all the way back to Whispers Of Terror, there’s been a conscious effort to do stories that would work well in audio form but not necessarily on television, and the various stories that have tried to accomplish that have either been very good or very bad, but very seldom “eh, that’s okay.” Nocturne is one of the better attempts.
The action is split evenly between the Doctor, Ace and Hex, who spent pretty good stretches of the story on their own, occasionally meeting up to compare notes and have cliffhanger moments and so on. This actually works well, as there’s enough story, backstory and character development to be exposed among this story’s guest stars, and all of this exposition seems to come naturally through conversation without feeling forced or terribly convenient. The TARDIS team works extraordinarily well this time, aside from Ace being out of commission for much of the latter half of the story, with Philip Olivier sounding like he fits right in.
The sound design and music are particularly important to Nocturne, and they get high marks, as does an outstanding guest cast playing a group of interesting and quirky characters. (I suppose I rave about Big Finish’s casting enough that it should almost go without saying anymore – suffice to say, there’s seldom egregious miscasting in a Doctor Who audio story.) For some reason, the opening scene in part one – which is vitally important to the story, though it’s not until much later that we know what happened there – evokes a mental picture of the “secret landing site” scenes of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind; it’d be interesting to know if the story’s writer had that in mind as well.
Nocturne is an interesting take on the conceit of a story that’s best done in audio form, what with its enemy being an entity composed of living music and organized sound, and it has that nice feel of “what Doctor Who might have been like in the early ’90s” about it; the story, at its core, is really rather traditional McCoy-era fare, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.