01/10/2010. Contributed by Sue Davies
Doctor Who: The Whispering Forest by Stephen Cole. pub: Big Finish. 120 minute 2 CDs. Price:CD: GBP14.99 (UK), download: GBP12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-473-3) cast: Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson, Sarah Sutton, Hayley Atwell, Sue Wallace, Paul Shelley, Harry Melling, Lennox Greaves and Aneurin Barnard.
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A group of people are in a dark forest. They are afraid and argumentative. Sister Seksa (pronounced Sessha) has assumed command since Brother Anulf was spirited away by the Takers. The forest is full of sounds of spirits or Shades but the group which includes Mertil who was Anulf’s second wife, take time to scrub their hands, for the sake of Purity, before returning home. Seksa leaves the group much to Mertil’s disgust which emphasises her lack of faith in Seksa’s leadership.
This short and to the point scene manages to show us very quickly just what the Doctor will encounter when he and his newly reconstituted group of companions, Nyssa, Turlough and Tegan, arrive the same gloomy forest. As the Doctor and Tegan advance into the forest, they are swiftly separated from Nyssa and Turlough who are pursued by the mysterious Shades which seem to haunt the place. As each pairing encounters different aspects of the society which inhabits the forest, we learn a little more about Purity and just why it is inhabited by a group with what appears to be OCD. The language that is developed around this belief system is powerful and many scenes would be quite disturbing if shown visually.
Efficient use of these different pairings allows the plot to develop along parallel lines and it makes a change from the usual Turlough-Tegan tug-of-war.
Fans have waited a long time for the return of Tegan (Janet Fielding) and we are treated to her shrill approach to problems. She certainly has something to wrap her molars around, unlike Nyssa (Sarah Sutton). She continues to be low key and after thirty years of this, you would think she’d be hitting the menopause about now and getting a bit narky. The Doctor (Peter Davison) also fails to make much of an impression seeming to go with the flow of events. Turlough (Mark Strickson) is simply himself and unfortunately, it is impossible to develop him as character as he is merely on vacation here between his TV appearances. It’s a shame because it would be nice to get more about him out of these stories.
Supporting cast members are as strong as ever with Hayley Atwell tipped to be in the new ‘Avengers’ movie playing the not inconsiderable role of Seksa. Sue Wallace (previously in ‘The Chimes Of Midnight’) as Mertil brings something of Sue Johnston to the role with some gritty northern edges in her voice.
There are about fifteen minutes of extras which explain the origin of the story and Stephen Cole’s involvement. There are also some mini-interviews with both regular, guest cast and director of this episode, Barnaby Edwards. Of course, there is also executive producer Nick Briggs talking for England and bringing to mind the excellent podcasts which are freely available at Big Finish.com.
This is part two of the trilogy which reunites all the old companions and Doctor Number Five and there is a danger we treat it as a filler for the more dramatic finale of ‘The Cradle Of The Snake’ but there is plenty to enjoy in this.
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