Tuesday, 31 May 2016

212 - Vampire of the Mind

The second part of a trilogy is always difficult. The ground work has been laid in part one – we know we are building to an epic conclusion in part three. But Part two is difficult. It has to tell a story in its own right whilst sowing seeds for HUGE payoffs in the finale, have enough of a link to parts one and three and yet be its own entity.
 This is the dilemma that Vampire of the Mind faces and attacks it in a very different way. In fact it completely ignores the set up from “And You Will Obey Me” (reviewhere) and hits the ground running as very much its own story. In fact if it were not advertised as part of the “Two Masters” trilogy it would be a very good standalone story and that is the way I will look at it for this review.
 “Techno-Thriller” is the phrase that comes to mind when listening to part one (available free here) and well worth a listen, it is also reminiscent of The Invasion – in fact the majority of the story has a very familiar very nostalgic feel but with a 2016 edge. Intrigued? then read on.
 The story begins with Old Sixie going to visit his old friend Professor Threadstone (John Standing) but finding out from his daughter Heather (Kate Kennedy) that he is missing having taken it upon himself to find several other eminent Scientists who have gone missing. The Doctor and Heather decide to investigate and all roads lead to the mysterious “Dominus Institute” which immediately set alarm bells ringing for The Doctor as Dominus is a latin word for “Master”. Getting themselves a place on the Dominus Institute sponsorship programme they head to the remote island castle that is the headquarters, a place that The Doctor thinks he has been to before….
 What elevates this story from a retread of the old glories of the Pertwee era is the performances of the main cast – Colin Baker & Kate Kennedy immediately spark as a Doctor/Companion pairing and then we have HIM – Alex Macqueen as The Master, the most spiteful, manipulative, embodiment of chaos – utterly cruel simply because he can be and seemingly at the very beginning of his regeneration so he really does not know who he is yet or what this incarnation is capable of – the suave calm of Delgado has been replaced by a supercilious sneer and an arrogant contempt. This man is dangerous, really dangerous and his plan requires The Doctor, or more specifically The Doctor’s mind.
 What starts as a techno thriller in part one progresses to a claustrophobic mystery in parts two and three and to a shocking ending in part four where, well, I will just have to let you listen for your selves – suffice to say, there is a link to the forthcoming finale to this trilogy – it will not make much sense at the moment, but I am hoping for an almighty payoff next month.
 This is a strong story, but maybe a little too familiar for my liking – taking many tropes of the UNIT era and transposing them to a modern day setting the nods to the past come thick and fast but are played in different ways than seasoned Whovians may expect keeping surprises, well, surprising – its a grim old tale, very dark and takes Old Sixie to one of the darkest places I have witnessed the character – his actions at the end of part four made me question whether he was bluffing or not – it was a very uncomfortable listen.
 Echoing the past with its plotting yet innovative with its characterisation. A dominating performance by Alex Macqueen and Colin Baker giving us even more layers to Old SIxie – I cannot wait to see how this pans out next month – 8/10.