Simon Guerrier’s The Empty House

Audio  Throughout Who’s history there’s been a thread of stories which have been about the Doctor and/or his pluses finding themselves in an odd situation and the story is about them discovering how to unpick the stitch they’re in. Think Inferno, The Chimes of Midnight or The Girl Who Waited.  Such adventures tend to be more interactive than most because the audience’s own deductive skills will be in play with the satisfactory potential that we might just be one step ahead of the Time Lord or as is the case in the best of their kind not see the extra layer of stitching underneath.

I’m smugly in the position of being able to say I was at least ten minutes ahead of the Doctor during Simon Guerrier’s The Empty House even though for various reasons the cover art suggests various ambiguities. The TARDIS crash lands in the wilds of Hampshire in the 1920s, and the Doctor smells the sulphurous malfunctioning engines of the alien ship they collided with. As is standard, Rory becomes separated when he returns to their ship for his wife’s umbrella while Amy and the Doctor investigate the other deserted ship then follow its occupant’s footprints to an eponymous dwelling of the title. Within they hear muffled voices, one of which is Rory’s.

Brain in gear, then. Guerrier structures his piece so that information is slowly parcelled out as the two friends turn over the house and simply pay attention to their environment and although the sound design sometimes works against what he’s trying to achieve (we’re only told the about music a gramophone is making rather than hear it), it’s structured in such a way that even this older mind found itself piecing things together leading to the eureka moment which happened just earlier as I was walking home from the post office. But as with the best of this type of story, the interest is kept alive through awaiting confirmation of a correct presumption.

Another adept reading from Raquel Cassidy who seems to have become AudioGo’s go to actor for their Doctor Who singles. In the parish monthly, the author suggested he’d originally envisaged Mark Gatiss as the voice for this adventure, pondering if he might have written it differently if he’d known who would ultimately reading the piece. But his characterisation of the regulars and narrative technique are proficient enough that it probably doesn’t matter. This is fine, economic storytelling and if it lacks the demented genius of some of his longer prose work (The Pirate Loop, The Time Travellers) it’s a worthy addition to this format.

Doctor Who: The Empty House by Simon Guerrier is out 6 September from AudioGo.

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