Big Finish Review: Doctor Who - Serpent in the Silver Mask
Big Finish's trilogy of stories featuring Peter Davison Fifth Doctor, Janet Fielding's Tegan Jovanka, Sarah Sutton's Nyssa and Matthew Waterhouse's Adric, wraps up this month with futuristic 'whodunnit' Serpent in the Silver Mask.
This story has been written by David Llewellyn and directed by Barnaby Edwards. It is available for download at the Big Finish site here and goes on general release on the 30th April 2018.
Here's the synopsis for Serpent in the Silver Mask...
You are cordially invited to Argentia, the galaxy’s most exclusive tax haven, to attend the funeral of mining magnate Carlo Mazzini. The memorial service will be followed by music, light refreshments, and murder!Carlo’s heirs have come to say their final goodbyes (and find out how much they’ve inherited) but when a masked killer begins picking them off one by one, Argentia goes into lock-down, closed off behind its own temporal displacement field.
Can the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric apprehend the murderer before Argentia – and everyone on board - is forever cut off from the rest of the Universe?
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)
Fun has been the optimal word for this trilogy of tales that kicked off with the high jinks and political machinations of Kingdom of Lies in January and continued with the truly spooky adventure Ghost Walk last month. And this feeling continues in this murder mystery tale, that takes a dash of Agatha Christie and throws in some time wimey paradoxical logic along the way.
Serpent in the Silver Mask presented a really compelling narrative for the Doctor and his companions, faced with the various narcissistic, greedy factions of the Mazzini family, all out to get a slice of his the dead patriarch's fortune. With the death of sole inheritor, the Doctor and his companions find themselves sucked into the murder mystery and this is one story where every main character gets a decent share of the drama. Adric gets an intriguing sub plot investigating creepy senitient dolls on the space station, Nyssa out her scientist skills to the test and Tegan gets a delightful little romantic sub plot with the only good Mazzini, humble teacher Joe.
Not only does actor Samuel West play Joe, he portrays every despicable member of the family, from the rather monotonous son who becomes the first victim to the atrocious, pretentious brothers who wouldn't be out of place on an episode of Made in Chelsea. And the Mazzini member attempting to seduce the Doctor in his investigation was hilarious. West is phenomenal in all these roles, taking up the similar role to Alec Guiness in 1949 film Kind Hearts and Coronets, each role sounding distinctly different so as to capture the audience's attention.
But the rest of the players are strong too; Phil Cornwell delivers a great foil for the Doctor in Superintendent Galgo (given the evidence it's no wonder he was on the Doctor's trail) but his best stuff is as the voice of Zaleb 5, the interactive computer on the space station Argentia, offering unbeat advice and a promotional add to every interaction with the TARDIS team. And Sophie Winkleman plays a great downtrodden assistant turned murderous accomplice in Sofia.
There are plenty of great twists and turns as each family member is offed one by one and the Agatha Christie reference is made very clear (at one point Galgo refers to the Doctor as Miss Marple), allowing for plenty of very dark humor throughout. And the sci-fi element adds an extra icing on the cake, having the suspects and victims imprisoned in a time-locked space station existing in a bubble that allows for the most audacious killer twist that frankly I didn't see coming.
It takes a while to get going; the first two parts feel like a lot of scene setting, but the second half is a lot of fun, with a thrilling cliffhanger to part three that puts all the companion's lives' in danger and allows the Doctor to have the upper hand - he knows the real killer's identity, it just takes a while for the audience to catch up!
Serpent in the Silver Mask is a delightful little murder mystery, with some intriguing sci-fi twists, black humour and plenty of drama for the Doctor and his companions to get their teeth into. Samuel West is terrific in the various Mazzini roles, making for a fun conclusion to these Fifth Doctor tales.
Ben Greenland (age 12)
Serpent in the Silver Mask was a fun tale to round off the Fifth Doctor trilogy. I really enjoyed the mystery behind who was killing these people off and the big reveal at the end was a surprise. I am a fan of murder mysteries, so this was great story to get into; I thoroughly enjoyed the suspense of who the killer was.
There were a lot of things I enjoyed. I found the dolls really creepy, and the timey wimey-ness of the mystery was a nice touch. I also really enjoyed the music too. Serpent in the Silver Mask gave Tegan a good storyline to play with and the Doctor being accused of murder was a nice twist too. I also enjoyed his partnership with Superintendent Galgo. It was a fantastic story for Peter Davison's Doctor, and a fitting end to this latest set of Big Finish main range releases.
The music suite for Serpent in the Silver Mask between parts two and three is a lovely seven minute interlude, capturing the whimsical nature and mystery of the tale. It doesn't necessarily feel like it came from the period the Fifth Doctor stories were made, but it suits this story perfectly.
Next up is a trailer for April's The Helliax Rift, which sees Peter Davison's Fifth Doctor teaming up with UNIT for the first time as he encounters the modern Big Finish incarnation of the military organisation...
Finally, a set of interviews with the cast and crew, with great, joyous narration from director Barnaby Edwards as he talks about his approach to this story, the ability to steps away from a world-ending tale and how the style of Kind Hearts and Coronets is a big influence on this story.