Big Finish Folly, Part 163 – Lurkers at Sunlight’s Edge, by Marty Ross
1934: the TARDIS lands on a snowy island off the coast of Alaska – one that wasn’t there four years, three months and six days ago, according to the Doctor. The island is dominated by a vast, twisted citadel. Inside it, the Lurkers lie dreaming. It’s said when they wake the world will end…
Led by the ruthless Emerson Whytecrag, an expedition has come to the citadel to exploit the horrors in its ebon-dark interior. Horrors just like those published in the pages of the pulp magazine Shuddersome Tales, where a hero’s only reward is madness, death… or worse.
Horrors that the Doctor and his companion are about to wake up.
It’s pastiche time! I think I’ve said before that one of the joys of Doctor Who is that it can be anything, any time, any place. It can certainly have a lot of fun playing at the edges of other peoples’ sandboxes – The Also People riffed off Iain M Banks, The Stones of Blood and Horror of Fang Rock went all Hammer Horror, heck we even had a musical episode a while back. So Lurkers at Sunlight’s Edge definitely wears its influences on its sleeve, with Marty Ross using the pulp horror stories of HP Lovecraft as inspiration for this tale of horrors of the deep.
Lovecraft (here CP Doveday, played by Michael Brandon) is a bit of a divisive figure in the SFF community these days, so Ross sensibly focuses more on the mythos than the man. Lovecraft’s Elder Gods become these Lurkers at Sunlight’s Edge, buried beneath time until Doveday’s wild imaginings – which aren’t quite so wild as he believes – bring them back to the surface. From here, it’s a case of keeping Doveday on the right side of the thin line of sanity, while trying to prevent the machinations of power-mad explorer Whytecrag. There’s more than a little Indiana Jones creeping into the play, which is more than fair given that Indiana Jones himself nicked a fair bit of mythos in its own turn.
But like Indiana Jones, you’re best off not examining the play too closely. For something set in 1934, it’s got a very modern feel to it, especially the sequences in the sanitarium and with the soldiers. There’s a large storage area deep beneath the sanitarium that feels like it has just appeared out of nowhere – you sometimes think that the entire production team has forgotten that they’re setting this in the 1930s. Only Michael Brandon seems to be playing his character with any amount of appropriate atmosphere; the others could have dropped in from any point in the twentieth century. It’s a bit odd.
While the citadel remains sealed, there’s still a good level of terror (of the unknown, of course) to be mined from the Lurkers. We always fear the unseen, the inexplicable, the incomprehensible. The Lurkers do have a massive presence in the latter half of the story, but it doesn’t match their absence in the first half, if you get my drift.
It’s a fairly average story, all told. Neither good, nor bad, but thankfully free of any lingering Forge-related baggage.