Stage Fright

Doctor WhoThe Doctor brings Flip to Victorian London, where he plans to take her to Henry Gordon Jago’s theatre, only to find it closed – and Jago at the pub. Jago can afford a drink, though, because he has a new benefactor – a mysterious producer and self-appointed leading actor who has swept into London with a new show that overpowers its audience with emotion. Professor Charles Litefoot, on the other hand, is glad the Doctor is here to help him solve a string of mysterious murders, all of the victims aspiring actors. The Doctor is alarmed to see that the murder victims are dressed as his past companions, and that the theatrical extravaganza booked in Jago’s theatre consists of re-enactments of his past regenerations. When he discovers that the would-be theatre impresario is named “Mr. Yardvale”, the Doctor is sure he’s walking into a trap…of his own design.

written by Matt Fitton
directed by Nicholas Briggs
music by Howard Carter

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Lisa Greenwood (Flip), Christopher Benjamin (Henry Jago), Trevor Baxter (George Litefoot), Lisa Bowerman (Ellie Higson), Michael Jayston (The Valeyard), Andree Bernard (Susie/Sylvie), Lizzie Roper (Bella)

Notes: Star Wars is a part of the entertainment landscape in the Doctor Who universe; Flip uses the “Dark Side of the Force” analogy for the explanation of the Valeyard relative to the Doctor, though when she says she loved Jar Jar, even the Doctor finds its difficult to let her off the hook. (Poor Jar Jar.) Jago & Litefoot, stars of their own Big Finish audio spinoff series, are well acquainted with the Doctor in both his fourth and sixth incarnations; they first met the sixth Doctor in Voyage To Venus, continued traveling with him in Voyage To The New World, and encountered him again in the all-star audio saga The Worlds Of Doctor Who.

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: Possibly the highlight of The Last Adventure, Stage Fright is already weird thanks to its “rehearsal” scenes of stilted re-enactments of the ends of the Doctor’s past lives, but add Jago and Litefoot and their milieu to the mix and the story’s just a winner. The Valeyard is at his most sinister here, actually pro-actively doing something as the driving force of the story rather than skulking in the background or popping in as a last-minute “gotcha!” Michael Jayston is rather funny when playing the Valeyard as someone who really can’t act (so much for curbing the Doctor’s theatrical urges), but for the most part, the story is unnerving and creepy as hell.

All things considered, perhaps this should’ve been the story that ended The Last Adventure. With its references to past regenerations, it certainly builds up the funereal feel that’s almost a pre-requisite for a Doctor’s final story, even if it achieves this self-referentially. Instead, the sixth Doctor’s last hurrah is left for a story that sees this incarnation go out in a shower of technobabble. Making Stage Fright the sixth Doctor’s literal “exit, stage left” would have been a masterstroke.