Big Finish Folly, Part 67 – Whispers of Terror, by Justin Richards
A visit to the Museum of Aural Antiquities coincides with a dark plot to “revise” some of the museum’s exhibits. On the eve of planet-wide elections, Beth Pernell wants to use recordings of the now-deceased visionary actor and politician Visteen Krane to prop up her own bid for power. But as strange voices echo around the museum and the bodies begin to pile up, could it be that Visteen Krane is not quite as dead as everyone believes him to be? Pause for the Doctor’s arrival, then fast forward to the action…
Skipping neatly past the audio version of web-animation Slipback, which although Wiki places it between First Sontarans and Whispers of Terror I’m unilaterally declaring to be uncanonical (despite the eventually rather clever concept the execution is really too silly for words – and, anyway, my blog, my rules…), we actually go back to the very beginnings of Big Finish, way back in November 1999. After the very modern Lost Stories, a much older Who. Timey wimey wibblyness abounds, y’see.
Whispers of Terror was the third release in the monthly main range, and it does show. Not that it is a bad play at all, just perhaps a little old-fashioned compared to the more recent releases. The concept revolves heavily around sound itself, and relies on the fact that you cannot see the characters (and in one case the blind curator cannot see anybody else at all) to carry one of the key reveals. Looking back, it would have been cleverly executed at the time, but from this distance you can hear Big Finish exploring the limitations of the medium. Further along the timeline, the Eighth Doctor adventure Natural History of Fear will take this concept and give it one hell of a good kicking, but that’s getting rather ahead of ourselves…
In some respects this feels far more like a continuation of the old TV series than many of the rejigged Lost Stories did. The Doctor is irascible, Peri is flighty, without the added weight of the later range of 5th Doctor audios, and there’s a fair amount of imaginary scenery-chewing from Lisa Bowerman as Beth Pernell. The running time is a nice compact 90 minutes, though with that length there are almost too many different characters knocking about in the early episodes to make things as clear as perhaps they ought to be. One thing that does let it down for me is the way Pernell gets her just desserts despite the resolution that precedes it: I thought that given the events of the last episode, the occupants of the museum would have been satisfied to leave her shamed and thoroughly defeated.
Not a bad play though in total, and one that I’ll happily listen to again.