Review – Big Finish Doctor Who #14: “The Holy Terror”

This is the next in line of my Big Finish Productions Doctor Who retro-reviews.

#14 – “The Holy Terror” (Side Step)

From Big Finish’s site:

The TARDIS lands in a forbidding castle in a time of religious upheaval. The old god has been overthrown, and all heretics are to be slaughtered. Obviously it isn’t the sort of thing which would happen there every day – just every few years or so.

And when the Doctor and Frobisher are hailed as messengers from heaven, they quickly become vital to opposing factions in their struggle for power. But will they be merely the acolytes of the new order – or will they be made gods themselves?

An evil destructive force is growing deep within the crypt. And the pair soon find out that they will be lucky to escape their new immortality with their lives.

Written By: Robert Shearman

Directed By: Nicholas Pegg


Colin Baker (The Doctor); Robert Jezek (Frobisher); Sam Kelly (Eugene Tacitus / The Boy); Roberta Taylor (Berengaria); Peter Guinness (Childeric); Dan Hogarth (Captain Sejanus); Helen Punt (Livilla); Stefan Atkinson (Pepin); Peter Sowerbutts (Clovis); Bruce Mann (Arnulf); Robert Shearman (Sculptor / Guard); Gary Russell (Guard); Jacqueline Rayner (Woma00)

***minor spoilers ahead***

If you’re ever in the market for a story that turns on a dime from hilariously cheesy to deeply disturbing, this story is for you.  For starters, the companion is Frobisher, a mesomorph; he’s a private detective who takes the form of a 6-foot talking penguin.  If you’re wondering where he came from, look to the comic books.  As ridiculous as he is, his very nature sets the stage for this entry in the annals of Big Finish.

The TARDIS has gone on strike, and the world they’ve landed upon has lost its god.  He committed the ultimate blasphemy, it seems: he died.  As is tradition, the new god must perform a miracle at his crowning, and it is at such timing that the TARDIS deposits the Doctor and Frobisher smack in the middle of the ceremony.  Meanwhile, the new god’s illegitimate brother is completing his part of the tradition; he’s trying to assassinate his brother and take the throne for himself.  This time, however, he is breaking with tradition.  It seems he already has his own heir, all ready to assume the throne in a few years time.  He has locked his son in a dungeon for years, keeping his “divine” ears pure from the speech of man, and allowing him to develop into a new type of superbeing.  When his son is ready to emerge, the child will teach him and the entire world what it means to truly be divine.  Or so, that’s his plan.  He may have to speed it up a bit, however, for you see, he didn’t count on Frobisher picking up the pieces where his less-than-divine brother left off.

All hail Frobisher!  All hail the big talking bird!

This story is another of those that sounds so completely absurd when you try to tell someone about it, but you can’t reveal the truly good stuff without spoiling the whole thing.  Suffice to say, the ending is nothing short of genius.  In a way, it’s the kind of genius you’d expect from the likes of H.P. Lovecraft or Clive Barker, in an absurdist, tangental kind of way.  I know, that won’t make a lick of sense until after you’ve heard it for yourself, but it’s still the best explanation I have.  When I first got my hands on this audio, I passed it off to others who felt that their own tastes were too “gothically-inclined” for the likes of Doctor Who, and they were as blown away by it as I was.  It has a metafictional quality to it that really invites the listener to reason out what is heard.  If it’s possible, I believe this one to be a completely unique entry in the Big Finish Doctor Who lineup.  Have I convinced you to listen yet?