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Doctor Who: The Book of Kells by Barnaby Edwards

01/01/2011. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Doctor Who: The Book of Kells in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: The Book of Kells in the UK

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pub: Big Finish. 60 minute CD with extras. Price: CD: GBP 10.99. Download: GBP 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-478-8). stars: Paul McGann, Niky Wardley, Jim Carter, Terrence Hardiman, Graeme Garden, Ryan Sampson and Nick Brimble.

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‘The Book Of Kells’ brings the Eighth Doctor and Tamsin to medieval Ireland and the Abbey of Kells. There be muck, magic and monks in this latest tale from the series.

When Tamsin finds herself covered in powdered chalk and playing the part of spook to a passing Norseman, the pair realise they are witnessing some kind of conspiracy. The TARDIS has been dragged into a ‘temporary whirlpool’ as Tamsin refers to it and their planned visit to a pleasure world has been aborted by some unknown outside influence.

Meeting the mysterious Brother Bernard, the Doctor is concerned and suspicious of his credibility as an 11th century monk. He is also keen to find out just why the TARDIS has been partially fried by the time stream and why the midden, a medieval rubbish tip, contains a vortisaur bone.

With Jim Carter as Brother Bernard and Graeme Garden as Abbot Thelonious, we’ve got some gargantuan vowels to find our way around. This is a bit of a romp despite its apparently serious premise. There is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and with mysterious secret passages and a certain amount of farcical behaviour certain people avoid meeting other people to deepen the mystery. There is a lot of underlying construction here that is not apparent on the first listen and writer Barnaby Edwards has skilfully woven all this around the real mystery of what happened to the original Book of Kells in the 11th century. Everything is devised to keep some key players apart. It does a lot to set up the next two adventures in the series, ‘Deimos’ and ‘Resurrection Of Mars’, which follow on credibly from this.

An impressive guest cast gives great depth and credence to the medieval monkery and it’s a revelation when you return to listen again. As I’m always using these audios as a backdrop to many activities, I am often to be seen slapping my forehead in belated realisation of what has been happening. My resolution is to stop multi-tasking.

Terrence Hardiman plays the Norse King Sitric, who happened to be the King of Dublin in 1006. In the tradition of casting and cross-over, he has also appeared with Matt Smith in episode two of the latest Doctor Who, ‘The Beast Below’. Ryan Sampson as Brother Patrick has appeared with David Tennant in ‘The Sontaran Stratagem/Poisoned Sky’ as the American developer of the Atmos system, Luke Rattigan. I assume they all get together and bliss out over ‘Doctor Who’ pay cheques which I am sure are huge…

Be prepared for some surprises and enjoy the history lesson.

Sue Davies

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