Monday, 27 December 2010

The Hive of Horror written by Paul Magrs and directed by Kate Thomas

This story in a nutshell: Its time for the final confrontation with the Queen of the swarm…

Teeth and Curls: Large as life and just as impossible, an aggravating cross between Sherlock Holmes and the Mad Hatter. He thinks he flourishes with wit and debonair style. He would be very disappointed if Mrs Wibbesey turned out to be the hornet Queen, it would be such a disappointing ending for him. Whereas Mike finds her disgusting the Doctor thinks the Queen is beautiful. He’s a madman or he veers close to the edge sometimes. The Doctor thinks there are much better ways than pointing guns about. He hopes he talks to everyone as people, alien or human. He is far too sweet natured and balanced to be controlled by the hornets. An intergalactic dilettante! Quite a cheery soul deep down. Sometimes the things he gets involved in are absolutely hair raising. It’s very sweet that the Doctor thinks Mike won’t betray him, his friend has had a few wobbles but he trusts him. The Queen pecks away at Mike’s defences by telling him that the Doctor used to take all the credit and deplores Mikes limitations, one day he will stop turning up and the human race will be left to face the monsters and he wont care. Just when you think you’ve seen the back of him he will turn up in a new body, younger, rubbing your nose in the fact that you have aged. When the hornets were in the TARDIS he was so scared. Mrs Wibbesey almost compliments him by insulting the surreal nature of his life! He comes and goes as he pleases, saying the right things. He considers his life long, fortunate and exciting. Being the Doctor is not all you think it might be. He improvises madly. Once again the old lush wants a snifter before dealing with the Queen! Tom Baker just loves say Wibbesey, doesn’t he?

Go back a read that paragraph again, this characterisation of the fourth Doctor is sublime.

Camp Captain: Its lovely that Mike Yates joins the action again and suddenly it makes perfect sense that he was chosen out of the plethora of companions to accompany the Doctor. Richard Franklin is given material above and beyond anything he was given on the telly and he is treated to some fine development. I hope he’s back for Demon Quest. A long time ago he used to find himself drawn into improbable adventures almost every week. Mrs Wibbesey describes him as a has been. Sweetly Lethbridge-Stewart gave him his hip flask the day he left the service. He’s spent many years trying to withstand brainwashing techniques, honing and training himself. Following his breakdown he studied under a number of Yogi and mystics. He’s no longer anybody’s knight in shining armour. He turns callous and flippant throughout the story and develops a mood of dark bravado. A new snappish, paranoid demeanour like in his dark days when he turned traitor against his friends. He’s a devil when his danders up. Mike was only trying to make the world a better place and yet UNIT cast him out and forgot about him. His mind has been shattered under recent exertions. He had no extraordinary knowledge or arcane powers; he had nothing to offer the Doctor except shooting things and being the butt of the joke. The Doctor tells him he was loyal. He remembers happy times at the UNIT Christmas parties. He shares a wonderful Christmas dinner with the Doctor and Mrs Wibbesey at the end of the story.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Pull yourself together Wibbesey!’
‘Sheeny tips curdled with venom…’
‘Quick tread on her!’
‘Aren’t you supposed to serve your queen and country?’

Great Ideas: The TARDISes dimensional stabiliser is creating the force shield around the cottage. The want to enslave all mankind and turn the world into a nightmarish place. A zebra is the one creature that the Doctor cannot always pacify containing the Queen of the swarm. Shrinking down to the size of a match head and walking through the black and white foliage of the zebras head! A mind made out of paper. The hornets chew it into a pulp then form fantastic cities of whirling tunnels and luminous chambers and cells, an engineering masterpiece, cities of papier-mache. Hornets as large as a bicycle peddling in the air! The throne room was a miracle, furnished in sputum, venom and pulp. Mrs Wibbesey teeters on the edge of being an impossible companion (I loved that observation). Negative thoughts are the bread and butter for their royal jelly. The hornets are susceptible to damaged souls, people who rage inside their heart. The Queen murmurs sweet dark nothings into the old soldiers ears. The hornets plan to take over the world and improve it, to use Mike’s government contacts to take over. Resorting to desperate measures the Doctor sets fire to the paper brain and the hornets attempt to fan the fire with their wings. The pupating young manufacture her majesty’s favourite grog. The Doctor exiles the Queen to the micro universe.

Audio Landscape: This is quite a bare production compared to the others in the range. I picked up a ticking grandfather clock and spitting fire and the usual hornet sound effects.

Musical Cues: A female vocalist echoes in the introduction to the Queen, a delectable specimen of vespidar.

Result: Subverting all of my expectations, the finale of the Hornets Nest series is quite a quiet piece which concentrates far more on character development than macabre ideas like the previous instalments. The Doctor and Mike shine unlike ever before, the former more unpredictable and eccentric than ever and the latter given some healthy development. I was a little disappointed at how easy the hornets were defeated after all of the build up which is a shame but given four hours of exceptional build up I think that was inevitable. The hornets are still terrifying and the sound effects really crawl under my skin and make me shiver. I can only hope that we see more of the fourth Doctor, Mike and Mrs Wibbesey because their interactions here are delightful and I am very pleased that there is another series written by the superlative Paul Magrs: 8/10


Adam Graham said...

This was a great conclusion and where the series came together. Throughout the series, Mike Yates basically was in the story to say, "And then what happened next, Doctor?" Here he gets to play a hand. Also, this was the first story where I looked at Mrs. Wibbsey as a potential companion.

Adam Graham said...

Really hope you'll review more of these, particularly the Serpent Crest storyline. That one features an apparent by the Second Doctor. (played by David Troughton)