Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - The Monsters of Gokroth

Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - The Monsters of Gokroth

April's Doctor Who main range release from Big Finish kicks off a new trilogy of stories with Sylvester McCoy's Seventh Doctor. And like this year's Fifth Doctor stories that featured the return of Kamelion, this trilogy is also brining back a character not seen since the 80s; Jessica Martin's werewolf Mags, from The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.

The Monsters of Gokroth, which reunites the Seventh Doctor with Mags, has been written by Matt Fitton and directed by Samuel Clemens. Is it available to purchase at the Big Finish site here and goes on general release on the 31st May. Here is the synopsis...

The people of Gokroth live in fear of the monsters in the forest. Creatures with scales and fur, teeth and claws. But worse than these, perhaps, is the strange doctor who does unspeakable, unholy work in the high castle on the mountain…



A doctor who’s about to receive a visit from an off-worlder. Mags, formerly of the Psychic Circus. A native of the planet Vulpana… with a monstrous secret of her own.

As usual, I'll be joined by my son Ben, a huge Doctor Who fan and regular reviewer of Big Finish with me at The Digital Fix...




The Review...




Baz Greenland (aged 37)

The Monster of Gokroth is a grandiose, gothic love letter to old horror movies; from the opening scene with a village tavern haunted by a curfew, monsters lurking in the woods and a mysterious scientist working from a castle atop a nearby mountain, writer Matt Fitton really embraces the OTT and often disturbing imagery of a planet living in perpetual fear.

But what is really clever about this story is how it subverts the audience's expectations; in a world haunted by monsters it is unclear who the real monsters are. Is it Victoria Yeates's eccentric Doctor Maleeva, experimenting on other life forms? Jeremy Hitchen's ruthless Varron, a man that has chained terrifying beasts with cybernetic implants and now offers to save Gokroth for a hefty price? The creatures that lurk in the woods, ready to steal whole families away? Or the village people ruled by paranoia and fear that shun outsiders and are ready to march upon the castle with pitchforks and torches? Even newcomers Mags, with her werewolf abilities and the Doctor with his own secrets are presented as monsters in the eyes of others, Mags literally in her werewolf form.

This story is gallantly directed by Samuel Clemens, who brings to life a vivid world that conjures up the imagination. Drawing on the horror movie influences, it is packed with danger and tension; you really get a sense of mayhem as monsters lurk in the forest and villagers flee in terror. There's also a whole host of protagonists, not least in the scheming Varron, who goes head to head with the Doctor to manipulate the local population. But it Yeates's Maleeva that is the strongest of the guest performers; from Hitchen's moustache-twirling Varron to Abi Harris' brash, northern Trella and Andrew Fettes' guttural manservant Gor, The Monsters of Gokron certainly borders on cliché and stereotypes, though that in itself is part of the story's charm. But Maleeva has much greater depth and vulnerability and the revelations around her character certainly build on this in the final part.

Sylvester McCoy is a delight as always, with his rolling Rs and charming swagger, while Martin is fierce and engaging as Mags, really capturing the spirit of her character that was perhaps only hinted at in The Greatest Show In The Galaxy. If there's one big fault I have with The Monsters of Gokroth, it's that there's very little of Mags and the Doctor together and we are robbed of the classic companion joining the TARDIS scene at the story's denouement. I'm very much looking forward to seeing them interact more over the next couple of stories, particularly with McCoy's Doctor being a more reflective, almost mournful older Doctor, closer perhaps to the TV movie than he was in The Greatest Show In The Galaxy.

While it lays on the homages to 40's black and white horror movie thick and fast, there's still plenty for the audience to get their teeth into; the final revelations certainly elevate from a simple table of monsters and frightened villagers, with the Doctor and Mags caught up in the middle. Writer Matt Fitton has certainly embraced the monster vibes of the premise, giving Mags a decent comeback to Doctor Who, even if her role is not as essential to the tale as it could be.

Ben Greenland (aged 13)

Is there a trend this year on Big Finish? First Kamelion is resurrected, then Mags and later this year, so will Peri, for the first time since 2014! But alas the Kamelion trilogy has gone by, and now we land on a world heavily inspired with Frankenstein containing monsters and curfews.

But, I couldn't really get into it. Sure there were good parts (I was looking forward to the whole Mags joining the Doctor moment, which sadly happens outside of the audio) but most of it felt like a deconstructed version of the horror movie. There are certainly good visuals you can conjure up within your head, like the tall gothic castle on the mountain in a lightning storm, and the woods filled with creatures with cybernetic implants. I couldn't really understand part one, as it felt like it went from there's a curfew, monsters and a castle which Mags goes too, to the Doctor gathering a small team to hunt the monsters. I'll admit, this did mean that I just couldn't pay as much attention as I am used to doing with these stories, but I did still pick out strengths and weaknesses.

The Character of Mags is still a fun one, but also has a lot more too do in this tale as in her other appearance in The Greatest Show In The Galaxy, as there she just was silent for a lot of it then became a werewolf. The wolf side of her really shines here, with the Doctor having to stop her from killing monsters. The Doctor himself is just tidying a bit of unfinished business, much as he was in The Silurian Candidate, but here is a lot older and has no travelling companions; thus the reason he was searching for an old friend in the form of Mags.

I had forgotten she hadn't seen the TARDIS before, so I was really looking forward to her bigger on the inside moment which, along with the Doctor's invite, didn't appear in the story. This annoyed me. The side characters were ok but I didn't really get invested in them, nor did I actually really understand how the monsters of Gokroth were defeated. It did what it wanted to do well, but its not what I would have wanted it to do. Even though there has been two main range releases in a row I haven't enjoyed to much, I still hold out hope for The Moons of Vulpana next month. And I do have faith in the Doctor and Mags as a TARDIS team.


The Extras...




The musical score between parts two and free is a real highlight of the release, with composer Andrew Hardwick really indulging in the epic grandeur and horror undertones of the story. From haunting gothic choirs to racing string movements, it's a fusion of Danny Elfman meets Howard Shore with a dose of heavy sci-fi synth thrown in at the end.

There is also a trailer for next month's The Moons of Vulpana, which will see the Doctor travel back to Mags' home planet, where she isn't the only werewolf on display...

Finally, there is the usual high standard of interviews with the cast and crew, with writer Matt Fitton delighting in embracing the feel of Frankenstein meets The Island of Doctor Moreau in his tale, while Jessica Martin is clearly delighted to reprise the character of Mags last seen in 1988...

Big Finish

Big Finish are the people behind a growing and impressive range of audio adventures including the likes of Doctor Who, Blakes 7 and Jago & Lightfoot.

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