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Audio Drama Review
Winter at the seaside. The wind blows. The waves crash. People are dying and a strange spindly figure stalks the cold, deserted streets. A typical holiday for the Doctor and Leela in other words. When they stumble across a grotesque series of murders at the coast, the TARDIS travellers realise the local constabulary is out of its depth. Something supernatural has come to town, something evil, and it all seems to be tied in to a particular young family. Monsters lurk behind strange doors. Tragic secrets wait to be uncovered. And somewhere, deep within, the Crooked Man sits. He is waiting for you...
Please note: there is no connection between this story and the Crooked Man in the episode Hide. Nor indeed is there any link to the Crooked World of the Eighth Doctor novel of the same name – well, maybe a few coincidental thematic similarities. Some of the themes in The Crooked Man also bear comparison to an earlier audio adventure written by John Dorney, The Fourth Wall. It’s hard to avoid repetition when there are so many stories out there already.
There is more and more fiction all the time – and not just in terms of more novels, movies and comic strips constantly being churned out, more television channels and more electronic media via which we can experience fictional narratives. As this latest Dorney script points out, there’s also amateur fiction to take into account, novelisations of obscure TV shows (I loved the in-joke about Professor X), journalistic exaggeration, and even the little fictions we make up whenever we tell a lie. To be honest, I find it impossible to keep up – I have shelves groaning with unread books and unwatched DVDs. No, I have not yet found time to watch Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, and quite possibly I never will. But that’s nothing compared to the problems faced by the Doctor (Tom Baker), Leela (Louise Jameson) and the townsfolk of Eastwold when a fictional realm gets overcrowded and some rather unpleasant denizens spill over into the real world.
It is strange to hear the Fourth Doctor referring to 21st-century phenomena such as e-publishing and YouTube, but otherwise this story fits right in with Tom’s time on the show. Neil Stuke (Game On, Silk) is unrecognisable as the Crooked Man himself, hitting the perfect Fourth Doctor era note by being as frightening as he is funny. There’s also a Sapphire & Steel flavour to the scary yet surreal events that ensue, which include some gruesome book-related deaths.
The first episode of this single-disc audio drama ends with a wonderfully surprising revelation, while the second concludes with a disclosure that I had managed to guess but which nevertheless moved me to tears. This poignancy is aided by the performance of Sarah Smart (At Home with the Braithwaites, Doctor Who: The Almost People / The Rebel Flesh) as Laura Corbett.
Chances are The Crooked Man will leave you with a crooked smile.
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