"the psychology of his protagonist's adventures"

Books  Now that time paradoxes have become a staple part of Doctor Who, trust James Goss, one of the more experimental of the spin-off writers to turn one into a big dumb – if beautiful – object and more than that a museum piece  at the heart of one his creepiest stories yet.  But as ever Goss's artifice doesn’t end there, as his new story The Art of Death is narrated by Penelope, the invigilator charged with the care of its viewing gallery and almost the entire story takes place within that chamber or else in the surrounding corridors and rooms.  The Doctor and his friends, lost in time, variously drop into her life when she’s most in peril slowly uncovering the mystery of the paradox and the crystalline monster which plagues Penelope’s existence.

Some of which might sound relatively familiar.  As well as much talk of cracks in time, the structure is also superficially similar to The Girl in the Fireplace and my favourite bit of Who of last year, Jonathan Morris’s Touched by an Angel.  With less room to extemporise, Goss focuses more closely on the psychology of his protagonist's adventures, keeping the focus on Penelope rather than the regulars, and how our lives can be superficially controlled without us realising the consequences of our actions before it’s too late.  At times she’s excruciatingly human and in one sequence Goss draws out a very specific type of ritual humiliation in a way which is even scarier than when the monster’s in full attack mode.

The always amazing Raquel Cassidy acts Penelope’s story with realistic detachment and as is often the case with Goss’s scripts part of the entertainment is guessing why she’s chosen to offer us her story.  Within that we’re not entirely sure if her interpretations of Matt, Karen and Arthur are Cassidy's or the character's but she achieves a decent interpretation of them all (perhaps thanks to having acting with them in the last series), her Amy understandably the most recognisable.  Goss also deserves credit for finding Rory’s voice too, that kind of bewildered strength mixed with staccato speech which other writers often default as “generic bloke”.  This is an excellent edition to Goss’s back catalogue.  Surely it’s about time he worked for television?

Also out this month is a Vintage Beeb re-release of the classic Doctor Who Sound Effects vinyl, an artefact I’ve been searching for since borrowing a copy from Liverpool Central Library years ago.  It’s a collection of noises from 70s episodes, originally produced by sound engineers Dick Mills and Brian Hodgson, some (sonic screwdriver) more iconic than others (Cloning and Miniaturisation Process).  Many were repurposed for other BBC programmes with the Gallifreyan Staser Gun brandished by the cops on Magrathea in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Interestingly the original sleeve notes featured working titles for stories with The Enemy Within once again losing out to something else. (The Invisible Enemy).

Doctor Who: The Art of Death by James Goss is out now on CD and to download.  Doctor Who Sound Effects (Vintage Beeb) is released on the 2nd February 2012.  Review copies supplied.

No comments:

Post a Comment