Having been distracted by both the surprisingly excellent (and not as confusing as I’d imagined) Zagreus, and also the wonderful The Marian Conspiracy, I’ve returned to Episode Three of The Destroyer Of Delights.
As in the previous instalments, Jonathan Clements’ writing is sharp, and his characterisations (or re-characterisations) of the Black Guardians remain sharp and compelling. Although both the Black and White Guardians are stripped of almost all of their power and are occupying a ‘tiny’ five dimensions on Ninth Century Earth, they still display a carefree nonchalance about most of the things that are occurring around them, including the deaths of the humans around them. The Black Guardian is particularly carefree in this sense, most notably shown when the Doctor tries to put a stop to his devilish scheme that will see hundreds of the Sudanese killed by begging the Guardian not to “plunge the area into chaos”. “But that’s what I do” plaintively states the Guardian with his velvet tongue, instantly reverting our perception of him to what it original was before Clements decided to turn him into a ‘cheekie chappie’ in the first episode of this instalment.
Having said that though, Peter Davison’s Doctor also displays a little of this carefree disregard for life. At one point he suggests that the young and vulnerable Sudan native Nisrin should enter the Black Guardian’s ship in order to prevent the ‘artillery’ from firing as battle is brewing. Not only does Nisrin not know what ‘artillery’ even is, but she’s only just escaped from that very same ship!
Slightly odd characterisation then, for the Fifth Doctor. That’s not the only odd thing going on here with him, though. Having heard a few of the Big Finish audios from each Doctor, I’m increasingly struck that, whilst Colin Baker in particular has a voice that remains identical to his more youthful Doctor-ish self, Davison’s voice seems to be noticeable ageing. Well, either that or he’s had a bit of a sore throat throughout these recordings.
There are still some good bits in this episode of course, and its humour generally hits the mark each time, but The Destroyer of Delights really is a lesser Doctor Who adventure. The plot is slow and surprisingly little happens. The characters, other than the Guardians aren’t hugely well rounded, and it’s just not as generally compelling as other efforts have been.
Perhaps things will improve with the climactic final episode, but if not then we still have The Chaos Pool to look forward to, in order to tie this mini-series together. Fingers crossed that it’s a good one, because otherwise the ‘Key 2 Time’ series which began with such promise, is going to resemble a bit of a damp squib.