Given that The Crooked Man is from the pen of John Dorney, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I enjoyed it as much as I did. And that’s despite having an reveal in the last five or so minutes that I guessed long before the Doctor and company deduced it (or at least that they confirmed it in the course of the story).
The Doctor and Leela arrive in a sea-side town for a holiday but discover that a macabre series of murders is taking place. Investigating further, they soon discover there’s a link between these murders and a local family — the sinister and creepy Crooked Man of the title.
The idea of world of fiction having the ability to crossover into reality is nothing new for Doctor Who (see the Troughton era serial “The Mind Robber”) so it’s a huge credit to Dorney’s script that it manages to feel interesting when done here. And while there’s a twist in the last five or so minutes of the script that’s telegraphed fairly early on by the story, it’s still one that is entirely earned by the story.
This one is filled with witty one-liners for Leela and some well excecute dialogue by the rest of the cast. It’s interesting to see a thread developing over this run of stories for the fourth Doctor and Leela and it will intrigue me to see if and how the audios can or will pay it off.
In the post-“Deadly Assassin” world, most stories featuring the Master attempted to hide him in plain sight until at least the first cliffhanger.
That’s not the case with “The Evil One” where the marketing material and packaging advertises that Geoffrey Beavers will be resuming the mantle of the Doctor’s old foe. Wisely writer Nicholas Briggs turns into this skid and puts the Master center stage well into the first installment of this story and doesn’t necessarily try to hide his presence from the audience.
It helps that the scheme the Master has launched this time is an intriguing one, involving manipulating Leela into wanting to kill the Doctor. Manipulating her mind through her dreams and memories, the Master plants seeds of doubt about the true nature of the Doctor and Leela’s friendship and relationship, going all the way back to her first appearance in “The Face of Evil.”
Don’t be surprised if you, like me, want to dust off your DVD of that story and give it another look after listening to this one.
Putting a burden of guilt on Leela over the death of her father and making her question her role and the Doctor’s in those events is nicely done and continues an interesting thread that’s been developing over the course of this run of fourth Doctor stories. It also gives Louise Jamison some strong material to work with as Leela –and she delivers in spades. As the supplemental features point out, these stories allow the writers to give Leela a bit more character development that was allowed on our TV screens at the time. And it all works well.
Last of the Colophon
In the post-story bonus features for Last of the Colophon, writer Jonathan Morris says he wanted to script a story that followed in the Hichcliffe-tradition of paying homage to old horror films. In this case, Morris says he realized that the series had never done a Doctor Who take on The Invisible Man and so he decided to give it a try here.
In the world of audio, creating an invisible character is a lot easier than realizing one on our television screens. We’re only limited by the budget of our imaginations, but it does mean that we have to get a lot of characters standing around and describing actions occurring.
It’s not helped that this one feels not only derivative of the Invisible Man but also of a lot of other Hinchliffe/Holmes era stories. It’s got the Doctor trying to take a holiday, the last survivor of an alien race with a different agenda than he or she originally lets on, a madmen trying to escape and get free to rule the galaxy and a series of puzzles to be solved to keep the villain of the piece at bay.
It’s not necessarily a bad story as much as it’s the feeling of “been there, done that.”
The story also includes Gareth Roberts of Blake’s Seven fame in the role of the main villain. Again, this is one of those things that were it not for the packaging and special features, I’d hardly have been aware of. I suppose this is good or bad, depending on your point of view.
Sadly, this ends up being the most disappointing of the current run of fourth Doctor and Leela stories I’ve listened to, so far. Here’s hoping they improve things with the next couple of entries.