Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Dead Shoes written by Paul Magrs and directed by Kate Thomas

This story in a nutshell: Shrunk to the size of a thimble the Doctor is menaced through a Victorian dollhouse by those pesky hornets…

Teeth and Curls: As Mike comments only the Doctor would fill his house full of homicidal dead animals. He loves being by the seaside in out the way spots and last visited Cromer in the 1930’s, taking long strolls on the rock strewn beach and demolishing fish suppers, filling his lungs with clean salty air. An autograph hunter? The Doctor thinks it doesn’t do to get tangled up in police enquiries. He brilliantly uses his scarf to lasso Miss Stott from committing suicide under the influence and jumping into the violent sea. His scarf would never let him down; it’s gone to enormous lengths in the past to save his neck (love it!). Go listen to the scene where the Doctor stresses that the whole universe is made up of dancing atoms, he sounds truly alien and magnificent. This is where the Doctor came across Mrs Wibbesey his housekeeper but he does have to hypnotise her every now and again (sounds like an average relationship). He declares that he hasn’t been growing geraniums since he and Mike last met! His TARDIS is like a bloodhound when it gets a scent and he’s very persistent when his danders up.

Camp Captain: Aside from getting the Doctor all worked up about trips down memory lane he is really only present in one or two scenes where the Doctor is recounting his story. I hope this isn’t the case throughout the series; I look forward to getting to know Yates a bit better.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Possessed Reverend Small! By a malign will not her own. Something that wants its shoes back!’ Reading this line it is fun but nothing very special but Tom Baker relishes the dialogue and projects it with such gusto it becomes something very special indeed.
‘The wild gulls crashed and stirred against the stiff wind’ – more superb atmospherics from Magrs.
‘The Hornets and I are forming a foxtrot through time! A temporal tango! I am waltzing with the storm!’

Great Ideas: Miss Stott’s very strange adventure at the seaside beg
an when she was stung by a hornet. Mrs Wibbesey turns out to be a curator of Cromer curiosities! I thought they were just being cheap and using the same actresses to play several parts! I don’t know if I like the idea of handling a Denobian slime dollar. Mrs Stott attempts a surreal snatch and grab, sealing a pair of mummified feet wearing ballet shoes. Once wearing these shoes Ernestina gives the performance of a lifetime, her feet whirring and blurring like a hummingbirds wings and her feet leaving the floor for ten impossible minutes. These shoes are dancing to someone else’s tune. The shoes used to belong to Francesca, a dancer on the high wire from 100 years ago. Every curator for the last century has known the sting of the hornet and kept the Queen of the Hive safe in Francesca’s remains. They are coming after Ernestina and want her to be the new hostess for the hornets. The Doctor has a horrifying vertiginous sensation as he is shrunk and placed inside a Victorian dollhouse inside a glass case (what a wonderful idea!). It is a mad house with a silent tableau of dolls sitting to dinner and slowly coming to life. Hideous empty faces come to life and chase the Doctor and Ernestina around the dollhouse. There is a scene that would scare my Simon stupid; he is terrified of the glassy eyed stars of china dolls and this one with its benign mindless grin and black vacant eyes and teeming with insects! The swarm comes leaking from the baby’s dead eyes like black smoke, almost leisurely with their movements, playing with them. The hornets have learnt how to manipulate time itself with their songs, their unique and powerful harmonies. Once you have been bitten you are always under their control. They can dance old shoes to their death. How gross is the thought of the scratching of their legs in your mind. The shoes dancing on their own is a fabulous visual – especially the one jiggling in the Doctor’s pocket!

Audio Landscape: The seaside is such an evocative location all you need is the sound of screaming seagulls and waves lapping at the shoreline and you are there with the Doctor. The menagerie are still screaming and padding about in Nest Cottage. I love how well the series has built up the horror of the hornets so the second you hear one buzzing in your ears your heckles go up! There is applause after Ernestina’s concert and mutterings in the audience. There’s lots of banging and attempts to break into the attic. I screamed when I heard the old sonic screwdriver buzz!

Musical Cues: The music was much more apparent in this story than the first one, it is gloriously grand and toe tappingly good! The organ seaside music conjures up so many images for me. The really exciting stuff comes when the Doctor is chased around the creepiest dolls house ever!

Result: Another very strong entry in the Hornets Nest series, The Dead Shoes mixes matinee music and waltzing possession to disturbing effect. If you thought things were creepy in The Stuff of Nightmares wait until you get trapped inside the dollshouse of death! Paul Magrs conjures up the evocative seaside atmosphere and being a boy who lives by the sea I could imagine myself down that front, smelling the sea breeze, tucking into salt’n’vinegar chips and crunching my way across the pebbles. If the conclusion feels a little sudden the running storyline remains intriguing and the middle sections of this audio really are skin crawlingly good. More please: 8/10

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