Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - Ghost Walk
Big Finish's February Doctor Who main range release continues the adventures of Peter Davison Fifth Doctor, Janet Fielding's Tegan Jovanka, Sarah Sutton's Nyssa and Matthew Waterhouse's Adric, following up from last month's Kingdom of Lies.
Ghost Watch has been written by James Goss and directed by Barnaby Edwards. It is available for download at the Big Finish site here and goes on general release on March 31st 2018.
Here's the synopsis for Ghost Walk...
This is a city of ghosts and no-one knows them better than Leanne. Twice a night she leads tourists to visit the most haunted sites - the Hanging Yard, the Witch Pool, the Screaming House, and, of course, the Catacombs.
Leanne’s realised the ghosts of the city are real. Something’s lurking in the Catacombs - an ancient force that has been growing in the darkness for centuries. Sabaoth is returning and they must be stopped before they devour the world. Leanne knows this, because a ghost told her.
A ghost called The Doctor.
As usual, I'll be joined by my son Ben, the biggest Doctor Who fan this side of Gallifrey, to review this latest release. Spoilers of course if you haven't listened to it yet...
Baz Greenland (aged 36)
Ghost Walk is a superb addition to the Big Finish main range for Doctor Who, full of atmosphere, mystery, creepy villains, terrific performances and plenty of timey-wimey shenanigans, expertly woven into a taught, superbly paced four-part story. Writer James Goss doesn't let a single story strand waver, weaving several plot strands together; it is a story that requires patience and focus, but when it comes together, the pay off is just outstanding.
It opens with a traditional, touristy ghost walk, led by Fenella Woolgar's Leanne; it is slightly creepy, slightly cheesy too and the reveal of the Firth Doctor as the ghost in the catacombs is an intriguing hook, setting up the rest of the first part that sees the Doctor and the TARDIS trio land in the catacombs a hundred years earlier and encounter the alien menace lurking within. It is dripping with horror and tension; cold, ghostly hands, strange noises, characters split up in the darkness. It works perfectly in the audio setting, the mind creating something far more creepy than anything on screen ever could (though of course Ghost Walk would be a terrific TV episode too). The cliff-hanger to part one is strong; the TARDIS's energy is drained by the Sabaoth, Nyssa and Adric are flung into another time and the disembodied Doctor calmly announces the Leanne in the present that he is dead.
Goss then switches direction for part two, focusing on Adric and Nyssa in the past, here she is mistaken for a witch and he is arrested for stealing a loaf of bread. It's a curious little historical tale amid a much larger story, full of exorcisms and witch trials; curiously it ends with a double cliff-hanger that sees both in mortal danger which Goss choses not to resolve until right at the story's end. The separate plot as Tegan and the Doctor wander the catacombs is still very creepy, director Barnaby Edwards perfectly capturing the mystery and chills.
The third part is where things really get interesting as the Doctor 'haunts' Leanne in the present while Tegan turns up in another time period, flung from her body by Sabaoth and turning up as a ghost in a couple's foolish attempt to play with a Ouija board. The tension increases further as the Doctor reveals that the enemy is using Leanne to bring about the end of the world, resulting in a true battle of minds that Doctor Who does so well. Woolgar's Leanne is a great foil for the Doctor, comical and sarcastic in equal measure as she learns that ghosts are real and the fate of humanity rests in her hands.
Ghost Watch is both an intriguing set of separate horror stories and one complex narrative centred around the dispossessed alien Sabaoth (presented with booming menace by Stephen Greif). It is not a light tale for the casual listener, but the rich tapestry of storylines and a strong lead in Peter Davison make this one of the best main range releases in the last twelve months.
Ben Greenland (aged 12)
Ghost Walk, like superb Static in December, is another great ghost story from Big Finish. It leaves listeners tense with horror and confusion, as lot of cliff-hangers aren’t even resolved in the next part, leaving them hanging there (In Adric’s case, literally). The concept of Sabaoth, is a very chilling creation, something even the Doctor is terrified of it. Listeners know the Doctor won’t stay dead, but it is a mystery of how he dies and lives again.
Adric and Nyssa get a whole adventure to themselves, but then they don’t feature that much after that. Tegan weaves in and out of the whole story, but the main focus is the Doctor and Leanne. The chemistry between them is heavily focused upon and pushes Leanne to consider her views. There are some really humorous moments, particularly my favourite line by the Doctor “I’ve never been a ghost before, give me a minute”.
I would definitely give this story a 10/10.
There are plenty of extras to get your teeth into. The eleven-minute musical suite after part two is a wonderfully atmospheric accompaniment to the story and direction, full of tension, horror and the occasional whimsical moment. There is also a trailer for the third Doctor Who release this year starring Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse. Serpent in the Silver Mask looks to be exciting, elaborate story murder, intrigue and mystery on a futuristic space station.
Finally, there is the usual high standard of behind the scenes interviews with the cast and crew, full of passion for the project they are involved in. I particularly enjoyed the main cast chatting about ghosts and whether they were real. You can tell they enjoyed making this story as much as fans everywhere are sure to enjoy listening to it.