Sunday, 2 January 2011

Hornets Nest, written by Paul Magrs and starring Tom Baker (2009)

My friend Jim has the happy knack of often coming up with just the phrase perfectly to encompass all that's best about one creative endeaviour or other, and he's seldom been more on the ball than in describing this first series of BBC Tom Baker Dr Who audios as 'macabre joie de vivre'.

Appearing in the autumn and early winter of the year, the five parts of Hornets Nest felt like a second annual season of Doctor Who, following the brash and colourful television series like a cleverer and more odd elder brother. Redolent of winter evenings, drinking mulled wine by an open fire, the curtains closed and an old friend come to visit, Paul Magrs rather brilliantly managed to provide both comfort and innovation in a single, beautifully crafted package.

From the very first, I was happily dragged into the latest World of the Doctor.

Nest Cottage feels like a natural extension from the house that Pertwee built in Magrs' earlier Dr Who book, Verdigris. And of course the Doctor would have a big old dog about the place, and a housekeeper to cook his meals and argue with him. Of course he'd have old friends round for adventures now and then (but not all the time!) and of course he'd stay up all night telling stories which, in the end, become one with present reality, so that everybody is in The Most Terrible Danger!

The fact that not all of this is in place at the start of the series makes the voyage of discovery all the finer - and the manner in which that voyage takes in one deliciously creepy (macabre, even) location after another, back into the watery depths of time, is finer still.

For me - and many more like me - this is the real Sound of the Seventies; the wheezing groan of the TARDIS, the fourth Doctor barking orders at Mike Yates and anyone else who gets in his way - and the sinister rustling noise of an alien entity sliding surreptitiously into an unsuspecting but compliant human body.

Beautiful and a little bit scary - like all the best Wintery things...

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