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“If I lived in a region infested by wolves, I should make pit traps around my house and bait them with blood.  And when I have caught the wolf, I would skin it and hang its pelt above my door as a warning… or…would that displease you?”
“Leela, you must be true to yourself…I’m not a moral compass either.”

No, you haven’t stumbled across a particularly unpleasant episode of Robbie Coltrane’s Cracker, nor have you wandered into your local Chinatown to be greeted by cries of “gweilo!”  Rather you get a ripping yarn originally (and perhaps more appropriately) titled “The Light of Day”.

Fast moving yet atmospheric, claustrophobic yet quite busy and peppered with twists, turns and surprises, ultimately dark but filled with sunny humor throughout, this is one of the best Fourth Doctor Adventures to which I’ve been exposed to date.

Quite reminiscent of the Graham Williams era, there are more zingers from both The Doctor and Leela than you’d ever expect…and most of them coming from the mouth of the latter.

“This really is a quite unremarkable planetoid.  Which makes it all the more remarkable that someone should want to shoot a missile at it.”
“I cannot say I blame them, it is a very ugly place.”

Apparently the Doctor’s little spat and round of self doubt after the events of King of Sontar has led to a chilly season around the Tardis, leaving Leela to her own devices.  In the event she takes it upon herself to…learn to read!?!

“I have decided to educate myself…we’re always landing in England, I thought it wise to learn about the monsters that live there.”

Leela’s new acquaintance with the child’s fairy tale serves her well in the course of things to come, with babes in the wood, wolves at the door and a dash of jack and the beanstalk coming in to play…and hey, are my ears decieving me, or is that Virginia Hey?  Why yes, it is…

Landing at the edge of the universe on a thinly aired planetoid suffused in darkness, the intrepid pair race to warn some unexpected inhabitants of an impending doom, only to find themselves trapped within a tangled skein where there are no heroes or innocents to be found…

With corpse plants, alien grim reapers, bad science, double crosses and vampires, it all sounds quite busy and in fact is, though under the deft hand of author Alan Barnes (recurring Eighth Doctor audio writer, also of Gods and Monsters) it all flows together quite smoothly and seamlessly.

While essentially a very surface level if quite entertainingly well done sci fi adventure, a none too subtle warning against genetic experimentation is hammered home towards the denouement.  One can extrapolate eyes towards both Monsantoesque GMO and pharmaceutical industry side effect laden widespread use of the human lab rat, with the only aim a callous financial gain at our collective expense being implied here…

Director Nick Briggs once more brings a deft hand to the proceedings, keeping things moving along at a brisk pace and making sure all involved give their due best.  While James Robertson’s music cues alternate between completely apropos atmospheric cues and some odd, clashing modernist classical and electronic pieces, the simultaneous claustrophobia and light comedy of the story not only manage to work suprisingly well together, but render all such niggling concerns quite moot in light of a vastly entertaining whole.

Virginia Hey, the plant-based mystic Zaahn of Farscape, makes her UK audio debut herein, bringing her trademark dispassionate calm into play and making her take on scientific expedition leader Senior Tutor Bengal a quite familiar one in addition to being suitably appropriate for the role at hand.  While not as large a role as fans might hope, given the brevity and business of the small cast production here, it’s certainly a pleasure to hear Hey’s sultry tones once again in the context of a ripping yet atmospheric sci fi adventure.  Hmm…now if only they can grab Hey’s castmate Gigi Edgley to work a Chiana analogue…

“I am not a dog that needs a pat on the head.”

Louise Jameson clearly relishes the newly expanded role and potential given to Leela by author Barnes, making this one of her more visible turns as the character with Big Finish.  Given how amusing she proves in all of her appearances (whether here with Tom Baker or alongside Colin Baker and company in Jago and Litefoot), that’s saying quite a bit, and one certainly hopes other writers this season continue to make use of the seeds planted herein.

“The Doctor has a plan?”
“Of course he has a plan!  He does not know what it is yet, that is all.”
“Leela, your faith in me is truly touching.”
“I know.”

After many years of chilly relations dating back to their televised pairing, it certainly seems as if Tom Baker and Louise Jameson have buried any postulative hatchet by now.  While earlier Fourth Doctor Adventures to which I’d been exposed seemed a bit cool and distant, White Ghosts finds Baker’s Doctor and Leela practically chummy, with something of a warm and paternal relationship beginning to come to the fore.

As such, it’s seldom been such a pleasure to hear Baker and Jameson working together, at least in an audio milieu, as is clearly the case herein.  Again, one can only hope this bodes a new, more affectionately companionable direction for the Fourth Doctor Adventures – one that shows the Doctor less annoyed or bemusedly talking down to a particularly dense pupil than the two sharing a more human and heartfelt delight in spending time and adventure in each other’s company.

And isn’t that the whole purpose of the Doctor having a succession of companions along for the ride?

 

http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/white-ghosts-799

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