Review – Big Finish Doctor Who #3: “Whispers of Terror”
This is the next in line of my Big Finish Productions Doctor Who retro-reviews.
The Doctor and Peri find themselves in the Museum of Aural Antiquities, where every sound is stored for posterity – from the speeches of Visteen Krane to security service wire taps and interrogation tapes. But they also find an intruder, mysteriously changed recordings, and a dead body.
Before long the Doctor realises that there is more going on than a simple break-in or murder. How can he defeat a creature that is made of pure sound?
Written By: Justin Richards
Directed By: Gary Russell
Colin Baker (The Doctor); Nicola Bryant (Peri); Rebecca Jenkins (Amber Dent / Car Computer); Hylton Collins (Goff Fotherill / Computer Voice); Matthew Brenher (Visteen Krane); Harvey Summers (Radio Announcer); Peter Miles (Museum Curator Gantman); Mark Trotman (Miles Napton); Nick Scovell (Detective Berkeley); Steffan Boje (Hans Stengard); Lisa Bowerman (Beth Pernell); Justin Richards (Answerphone Message); Jacqueline Rayner (Audio Voices)
*** minor spoilers ahead***
What I said in my previous review about classic actors giving even better performances for audio than they did in the classic episodes holds true here. Colin Baker’s 6th Doctor and Nicola Bryant’s Peri are in top form here, as though the ‘80s never left us. What you don’t know from hearing this is how much both characters will evolve over the course of these audios. Their performances, combined with one of the most original ideas for a villain I’ve ever heard – one that’s custom-made for radio – makes “Whispers of Terror” one of my early favorites in the Big Finish line.
Much like with “Phantasmagoria,” there’s not a lot of technical jargon to be had here, which makes this a good jumping-on point for new fans. That said, the substance of plot is kicked up a notch as Big Finish begins to flex its muscles and demonstrates to diehard fan and newbie alike the true power of radio.
Just for grins, try this out for size. Wherever you are right now, close your eyes and listen. Listen to every little sound around you: the sounds of people outside driving by, engines growling, perhaps thumping bass on the sound system, a dog barking, floorboards creaking. Even when it’s perfectly quiet, there’s always a soundscape to hear: birds, the wind rustling in the leaves, the hum of the air conditioner, the barely audible whine from your computer monitor… You get the idea. Even in a sound deprivation tank, you’ll hear the sound of your heartbeat and breath magnified inside your skull. You cannot hide from sound so long as you’re alive.
Now imagine that there is a creature out there somewhere that you can’t see because it’s made of a pure sound wave. That creature is capable of mimicking any other sound it hears and capable of altering those other sounds to suit its own purposes. Now imagine that someone had captured it and edited it – a deletion here and there, a bit of scrambling and rearranging, a bit of reverb. That creature is insane enough at that point to make the Joker look like Mother Theresa.
Ok, so maybe it’s not quite that crazy… yet, but it’s about to be let loose upon the world during a global political broadcast, its power magnified and multiplied by each device that receives the broadcast, and every version of it is as insane as the original source.
That, in a nut shell, is the setup for “Whispers of Terror.” But as any Doctor Who fan can tell you, the Doctor requires a challenge, and when the 6th Doctor is involved, his smugness must be counterbalanced by extremely high stakes. So where does all this begin? Appropriately enough, in a Museum of Aural Antiquities. In other words, a sound library. Ponder that a moment, and really let the possibilities of something like that sink in.
If that’s not enough to make you want to hear this audio, then I don’t know what else can do the trick. As I said, it’s one of my early favorites. There are many adventures in this line that are better, but that’s largely because this one raised the bar on what to expect from Big Finish so early on. It’s memorable for all the right reasons and whets the appetite for more. And if nothing else, the idea is guaranteed to linger with you long after you hear it.