A child of the eighties, my Doctor Who was Sylvester McCoy as I was too young to watch the show when Doctors Davison and Baker set foot in the Tardis. I always remembered how McCoy played the part with a quirky, curious disposition and how he had a brooding soul. Watching the previous incarnations of the Doctor as I grew older, I appreciated McCoy’s acting skills in a new light as, like it or loathe it, you can’t deny that his version of the Doctor was a darker, eerier one.
This creepiness is laced throughout Night Thoughts, a four-part adventure told over two CDs in the form of an audio play. Without going into the plot too much, Night Thoughts sees the Doctor and his accomplices Ace and Hex find themselves at a mansion. Stationed at the mansion are a group of scientific academics, a young girl and her toy rabbit. When the murders start piling up, it’s up to the Doctor to solve the puzzle and save the day.
Night Thoughts is in parts very good, in parts really quite bad. Starting with the good, the presence of Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred reprising their roles (Aldred as feisty companion Ace) brings some welcome authenticity to the play. They’re aided with solid support from former Brookside actor Philip Olivier as Hex, a regular in this audio series from Big Finish.
Atmospherically, it remains faithful to the seventh doctor’s universe – McCoy still depicting that playful, uneasy character he perfected so well on our TV screens. It’s suitably disturbing in places, with zombies, bear traps and deaths galore, and the action is impressively realised, particularly as the adventure unravels. The sound production is excellent throughout, painting full, colourful pictures of the audio presentation on even the most demanding of minds.
However, for all its qualities, there is much to bemoan here. The plot is solid enough, but it jumps around at such a rate in the first two parts that left me confused on the first listen. I have to mention the supposed cliffhangers at the end of each episode too. If you’re going to set up something as potentially exciting as Ace getting her leg caught in a bear trap, surely the listeners deserve a better pay-off than simply saying in the next episode that, actually, her leg wasn’t caught at all, and that the scream she let out at the end of the previous episode was cheekily misleading. Also, at times the acting can be a little hammy. In fairness, this was always the way of the McCoy era but it jars from time to time nonetheless.
My first Doctor Who audio experience, Night Thoughts is a curious play. While there is much to admire and praise, there are equally many problems to be picked at. Still, if you’re a McCoy fan, this evokes that era well and is admirable for its dark undertones and breadth of scope. It’s just a pity that it trips up over itself on the way, as it could have been so much better.