In view of the consumer backlash this series of audio books appears to have precipitated, I must confess to having been slightly hesitant in buying the first CD. Having read a handful of reviews it would appear that there are quite a few disgruntled people who were expecting something more along the lines of a Big Finish full cast production, and given the inordinate level of hype surrounding Tom’s return to the role, such high expectation was only ever going to lead to disappointment.
Thankfully, the bitterness expressed by a small minority could not stifle my curiosity, and I recently purchased the first three episodes for the princely sum of five pounds each. I’m so glad that I did.
The Stuff of Nightmares is a wonderfully atmospheric story, full of strong haunting imagery, beautifully narrated in the style of a late night fireside ghost tale. It’s amazing how naturally Tom slipped back into the role, and such is the resonance of his charismatic tones that I found myself instantly spellbound by the opulence of Paul Magrs ethereal script. So rich and detailed is the imagery and so entrancing the subject matter, that my usual mundane commute to work passed by in a flash, leaving me hungry for more.
It was lovely to hear Richard Franklin’s voice again, and although I initially thought that he was an unusual choice of 'companion' -- particularly as his character is normally associated with the third Doctor -- I think he does a splendid job. Interesting is the manner in which the Doctor and Yates interact, their relationship being more like that of the Doctor and the Brigadier, in fact there’s an interesting scene early on in the story where the Doctor is attacked by a vengeful weasel and Mike instantly pulls out a gun and despatches the beast, only to be chided for his rash actions. Perhaps Franklin was not the first choice for the part?
Despite my initial apprehension, I was delighted to discover that The Stuff of Nightmares was actually more than I had hoped for. Stories of the macabre have traditionally lent themselves very well to Doctor Who, and Paul Magrs script has a particularly ‘Who-ish’ feel to it, the stories chilling surrealism being brought to life so captivatingly by Tom’s wonderful story telling voice. You just don’t get the same emotional response from a book, you need to close your eyes and be drawn in by those hypnotic tones.