The Scent of Blood.

Audio Here a rare oddity. While Big Finish continue to go big with their Eighth Doctor coverage, with a dozen or so episodes this year across various boxed sets, apart from cameos there's only ever been a handful of BBC Audio releases in the twenty years since San Francisco (Vancouver), a smattering from the late nineties read by Paul himself, Sophie Aldred and Nicholas Courtney and the Alien Mine anniversary piece which was recorded by Big Finish in any case. Yet here we have in 2019 an "audio exclusive", essentially a double length Short Trip, with TV movie McGann on the cover, literally the same shot which appears at the top of this blog's chronology.

How?  Why?  The project editor for these things is John Ainsworth, long term Big Finish producer, director and actor, so in the absence of an explanatory preview in the party newsletter or liner notes, my guess is because he felt like it.  Well good.  His participation, not to mention David Darlington, a veteran sound designer for Who audios probably account for how bona fide to it sounds, fitting perfectly fine within the existing corpus.  We're also introduced to a new thumping version of the theme, all drums percussion and organ melody, presumably recorded by Darlington because they didn't have access to the David Arnold version which is traditional for Eighth Doctor audios.

Building on the vampire mythology from State of Decay and other expanded Whoniverse sources (which again shows the depth of experience in this production), this finds the Doctor on the streets of Edinburgh in the 1890s aiding an journalist with his investigation into a mysterious death and the strange behaviour of some of the locals.  What connection do a pasty faced aristocrat and the local quarry have to do with events?  If all of this sounds over familiar, it is, but then writer Andy Lane introduces a huge new piece of mythology which will surely mean a number of TARDIS Datacore pages will have to be re-written.

Incredibly, this is Lane's first Eighth Doctor story since his co-writing credit on The Banquo Legacy back in 2000.  But from the moment he emerges from the shadows, the Eighth is ready and present, life's champion in full effect.  The story proceeds at a lick, with much bite, so much so I had to rewind now and then because I missed some important bit of action.  That isn't a criticism.  One of the problems with any audio adventure is whether there's enough in there to cause the listener to want to re-listen and I'd say The Scent of Blood would bare a repeat.

That's not inconsiderably because of Dan Starkey's fabulous reading and his uncanny version of the Eighth Doctor.  Because McGann himself has been prolific in his own portrayal of the character, he's rarely rendered through other voices, mainly India and Sheridan.  Well here comes Starkey, who no doubt having watched his fellow actor in the studio, nails his intonations from the eccentrically speedy line readings to the Liverpudlian edge to his voice.  Starkey's other characterisations are also remarkable, notably Lord Elmhurst for which he seems to be giving us his James Mason impression.

Placement:  taking a cue from the cover, early.  Let's arbitrarily stick it before Vampire Science for S and Gs.

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