Wednesday, 16 February 2011
Point of Entry written by Marc Platt (from a story by Barbara Clegg) and directed by John Ainsworth
What’s it about: The 16th Century. Playwright Kit Marlowe is attempting to write Doctor Faustus when a darkness descends on his life, in the cadaverous form of a Spaniard called Velez. The monstrosity is in search of a stone blade that was brought from South America... After a near-disastrous collision with an asteroid in space, the TARDIS makes an emergency landing in Elizabethan England. These two events are connected. The Omnim are ready. And the point of entry approaches...
Softer Six: As we march through this lost season you can chart the progress of the sixth Doctor and see precisely how he became the more amiable fellow in Trial of a Timelord. Whilst this might have started out as quite a niche idea it has now formed a perfect bridging between the two seasons (and I think I might have to include it in all future Doctor Who marathons). What’s more with stories of this calibre it is turning out to be the finest ‘classic’ season Sixie had! Some of us can get more distracted than others, says Peri of the Doctor. He steps from the TARDIS into Elizabethan England and is wary, declaring culture may be on the up but everything else is far from ‘hey nonny nonny’ and pretty barbaric. He compares the tongue piercing torture to that of the Aztecs, which proves extremely prescient on his part. The Doctor always wanted to hear Tamburlaine and loves a good play! He doesn’t believe in phantasms. I loved Tom’s reaction to him – is his costume allegorical? Or does it present loud rumour or vanity? Or is he the Lord of Misrule out of a job until Yuletide? In a very funny moment of stealth (or rather lack of!) the Doctor gets stuck in the portcullis of the Tower of London (much to the amusement of the guard!). Walsingham thinks he is after the job as the Queen’s fool! He might seem crazy at first (okay most of the time) but he understands unusual happenings. When the Doctor is stretched out on the rack he asks for a cushion (such pluck!) and yawns as Walsingham attempts to intimidate him (‘I’m quite tall enough as it is thank you very much!’). The Doctor can manipulate the astral plane and turns the tables on the Omnim. His dress offends, he is a strutting peacock and his words roll like a serpent! Returning from the dead is a habit he cannot break. I loved the exchange: ‘Are you crazy?’ ‘Totally insane!’ He didn’t want his solution to be a death sentence for the Omnim. The ending is gorgeous, as the Doctor winds up in Faustus – ‘Where the philosopher ceases, the Doctor begins’ and he is delighted!
Busty Babe: Another fantastic showing in what is turning out to be a season that really brings her character to life. Nicola Bryant always brings plenty of pluck and vigour to the role but here she is especially good, sounding genuinely terrified at what Peri is being put through, giving a peaceful, ethereal performance when she is on the astral plane and then having the time of her life as Peri gets to posh it up as the Queen! What a shame Peri never had this sort of attention to detail on screen. Peri gets terribly excited rummaging through an Elizabethan wardrobe, the Doctor telling her she needs to cover herself up in this period. There was a great line that really brought home both how out of her time she is and her pop culture childhood, of the various Shakespearean Henry plays Peri asks ‘is that with advert breaks or sequels like Star Wars?’ Peri has travelled further than she ever imagined. Early on Peri thinks she is being chatted up by Marlowe’s young bit of fluff, Tom! The Doctor would be appalled to hear that Peri has introduced Americanisms to Elizabethan England (‘O…K?). When they are lost in the astral plane and Kit has no quill Peri promises to remember their dark experiences so he can incorporate them into his play. Poor Peri is really put through the wringer in this play, when she looks into the mirror she has to scream to herself that she isn’t dying such us the shock of the experience and then she is attacked by a swarm of Omnim (that sound disturbingly like flies). Brilliantly Peri gets to glam it up and play the Queen and I loved the exchange: ‘How’s my face?’ ‘Believe me, it would launch a thousand ships!’ Her posh accent is an absolute riot and with her comedy accent slip you have to wonder if Marc Platt is having a fun little dig at Nicola Bryant (‘Wow look at all that gold! Whoops! I mean… ‘sooo much wealth!’). Peri gets a little bit carried away in the role and starts handing out knighthoods (‘Arise Sir Anthony! You’ve done really well!’). I loved the fact that she managed to convince the commoners that she was the Queen!
Standout Performance: Matt Addis and Tam Williams are astonishingly good as Kit Marlowe and Tom; so good that Colin Baker said he had to up his game to keep up with them! Marlowe and Tom’s relationship is subtly handled, the opposite of the homosexual villainy in the last story but just as beguiling. Truth has darkness too and Marlowe needs to explore the shadows beyond – its fantastic characterisation of an often-ignored playwright and Addis brings an insane fervour to the part. ‘Was ever a writer so afire?’
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I have so much darkness to show you…’
‘A pox on the plague for closing down the Rose just when I’m on the boil!’
‘Dark days and shadows turn for England.’
‘A few droplets of spilt blood will no longer water the desert…’
‘’Lives spilling from the Tower until the whole Thames runs red!’
‘The Spaniard is dead!’ is not a great line in itself but the huge cheer that rose afterwards made me laugh my head off!
Great Ideas: Veleth is a man of dark knowledge who has been exiled from Spain. His glass of polished obsidian shows the unseen, glimpses round corners and unearths secrets better left buried. The TARDIS is rogue asteroid spotting when it picks up cries and replies with the rock as a go between communicator. The asteroid manages to stop in space and change direction towards the TARDIS! Elizabethan London is described as more of a farm than a city. Having your tongue ripped out and put in the stocks is considered appropriate punishment for the time! Scandal in the theatre equals full houses and Marlowe intends to tell the tale of Faustus selling his soul to the Devil. Plague walks the city gathering the dead in armfuls. Veleth’s dark library contains grimoires and magic tomes and he shed his skin like a snake on the road to Paris. He withers like an old prune as his masters wear him out but the flesh creeps back over his bones as he sacrifices another victim. The astral plane is described as a night world of dreams and shadows, London as a ghost town. The world of the Omnim is lost, destroyed by their own foolishness as they developed the power to create vibrations at will and make the world and sky the sing. The vibration shattered their planet to pieces and they projected their mind energies into a last fragment of their world, a rogue asteroid. Trapped for millennia, imprisoned in solid rock until they latched onto the TARDIS, the Doctor bringing the Omnim to the Earth. The Aztecs found a fragment of the rock and carved it into a blade and it transmitted energy back to the Omnim during the blood sacrifices. The energy-absorbing blade was split from its hilt, which Veleth found in Madrid and brought to London to reunite with its blade. The point of entry for the Omnim to invade is during a lunar eclipse. An alliance between Veleth and Walsingham, using weapons of torture to slaughter the populace of London, spill their blood and release the Omnim. The blade feeds on panic, the Omnim swarm and the first to escapes takes the form of the God Quetzalcoatl! Walsingham arranges for every bell tower to ring to drive the Omnim out (because as the Doctor says if you need a favour it is polite to ask rather than invade a planet!). Some lovely background given at the end, Kit dying young in some pointless brawl in a Deptford tavern but not before his plays achieved fame.
Audio Landscape: A very impressive and evocative tale, John Ainsworth is another Big Finish director who always gives 100% and this kind of mood piece is perfectly suited to his talents. Here he allows for moments of quiet tension, the performances coming to the fore and then winds you with moments of sudden drama and threat. Dogs barking, a quill scratching, watchman bellowing, cat screeching, flies, laughter, a sword fight, the asteroid shifting through space, Gracechurch street market in all its bawdiness, a cow, thunder, a scraping, chilling scream, chickens, bar side merriment, rainfall striking the mud, birdsong, a popping fire, the clanking rack, chains rattling, breaths of the spirits attacking, broken crockery, seagulls, the Omnim swarming around Peri, Aztec sacrifices, Veleth’s house on fire, Peri and the Doctor swooping back to London, the house collapsing, rowing on the Thames, waters lapping, the creaking deck of a ship, ringing a bell, churches coming to life and an almighty rain of destruction.
Musical Cues: A superb score, capturing the horror and the danger of events. The rising, terrifying music as Veleth convinces Marlowe to murder was exceptional as was the forceful cliffhanging theme. Loved the Aztec tribal music as well.
Standout Scene: Where shall I start? The awesome concept of the screaming asteroid tracking and pursuing the TARDIS, discovering the mute victim in the stocks, Marlowe seduced into killing in a breathtaking building of tension, the exotic Aztec flashbacks, Peri’s Royal theatrics…I could recount the whole story! However the cliffhanger was easily my favourite moment, it was genuinely frightening enough to give me goosebumps (and that hasn’t happened in a long time). Plus the very idea of bringing the Aztec blood sacrifices to London when the blade and hilt come together is truly haunting.
Result: Wow. Astonishingly mature storytelling and the pinnacle of the lost stories season; Point of Entry combines theatrics and devilry to create an unsettling, dark mood with moments of genuinely chilling horror. This is the story of Marlowe bewitched by the Devil, looking for a sinister muse to shape Faustus and bringing an alien menace to fruition that is laced into Earth’s bloody history. Marc Platt has written his best script yet, an ominous historical atmosphere of storms, screams and sacrifices and John Ainsworth direction offers moments of spine chilling terror. Barbara Clegg’s pitch was the perfect change of scene for this science fiction heavy season and gives Peri her best material yet. People have bemoaned that this story is too long but I wouldn’t lose one second of its brooding piquancy: 10/10
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/106-Doctor-Who-Point-of-Entry