Friday, 10 December 2010
Hornets Nest 1: The Stuff of Nightmares written by Paul Magrs and directed by Kate Thomas
What’s it about: Responding to an advert apparently worded for him alone, Captain Mike Yates (retired) is reunited with a ghost from the past. But why has the Doctor, that mysterious traveller in Time and Space, sent for his former UNIT acquaintance? Trapped by a horde of vicious creatures in an apparently innocuous English country cottage, the two old friends are on the brink of an enormous adventure. As the Doctor relates his recent escapades, it becomes clear to Mike that they – and the Earth at large – are facing an enemy of unimaginable power and horrific intent.
Teeth & Curls: Am I the only person who wasn’t that thrilled about Tom Baker returning to audio? Whilst I am a huge fan of the 4th Doctor I have been more than satisfied with the 4 Doctors we have been enjoying on audio without feeling the need to branch out. It’s probably why it has taken me so long to get around to Hornets Nest despite the fact that Paul Magrs is one of my favourite Doctor Who authors. Now prepare for this moment because it wont come along very often…I was wrong. Tom Baker is a master storyteller and listening to the first Hornets Nest adventure has reminded me why I fell in love with his interpretation of the character so thoroughly. He has an effortless way with dialogue and it drips from his tongue like honey. Frankly if listening this wonderful actor regale us with tales is what we can come to expect from the next four stories sign me up!
The Doctor always helps himself to drinks and has a warm, welcoming voice. He is living in a house hidden away in deepest Sussex. It is rather annoying the way he keeps changing and it’s not like him to stick around in one place. He reminisces with Mike and tells him tall tales of giant rats and skulls from the dawn of time. The Doctor has a habit of flying off in petulant moods. He used to rail against UNIY for dragging him into the affairs of human being and looking into mysteries under sufferance but lately he has felt a pang of nostalgia for those times. Not averse to marching up to the man in charge and announcing his presence. The only way of getting yourself ‘inside’ is to get yourself captured. He likes to find a better way, a more peaceful way. He was always fond of Dodos and kept one for a while! ‘You’re crackers!’ ‘Marvellous, isn’t it?’ He thinks he improvises brilliantly. I love how he is such an old lush (‘Don’t you keep a stock of liquor?’). There’s no use in panicking…where does that get you? The Doctor has been known to get on terribly well with insect creatures with one of two exceptions like the Wirrn and Zarbi. He occasionally speaks for mankind. I loved his admission that he can never do fear because he can’t take it completely seriously!
Camp Captain: What an odd choice to choose Captain Yates as a companion for the fourth Doctor? What an unexpected delight since we start to see depths that were denies on the television! Richard Franklin never really convinced for me during the Pertwee years as a butch military office and love interest for Katy Manning’s Jo but he proves to be fine actor in this story and an excellent narrator for the first part of the story.
That’s two big surprises with both of the regulars, colour me impressed. It makes me wonder if this entire series will be the Doctor regaling stories to Mike or if they will actually get adventures of their own?
The ad in the paper reads: Retired army Captain required for light household duties and far side companionship. Must tolerate mild eccentricity and strong scientific advice. Knowledge of giant maggots, super intelligent spiders and prehistoric monsters a positive boon! Mike admits this advertisement was tailor for him and his curiosity is piqued. His past feels as though it is catching up with him. Being with the Doctor makes Mike feel young again. He is dragged once again into the Doctor’s nightmares. Hilariously Mike bats at creatures with a pair of ballet slippers!
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘How do you feel about running away with me and seeing all the marvels of the universe?’ ‘Go boil your head!’ ‘Marvellous woman!’ I get the feeling the relationship between the Doctor and Mrs Wibbesey is going to be delightful!
The Doctor suffers ‘a terrible pot of tea and a damp garibaldi’ and it makes my toes curl just to think of Tom Baker saying a delicious line like that.
‘Factories pumped strange pink and purple clouds into the glittering sky’ The language is effortlessly evocative.
‘I was under attack from the cast of a crazed Wind in the Willows!’
Great Ideas: Stuffed animals are hunting in the night, being dead doesn’t deter these beasts. A cabinet minister has been killed with the hoof print of a goat on his head! Several influential figures from Whitehall have been flattened by an elephant. Somebody is using these beats for their own purposes. Is this a bestial attack on mankind for this insult of their deaths? Back street menageries – somebody is stealing the cast off stuffed creatures. Mr Noggin the taxidermist is carrying them off into the belly of his lorry. Making monsters, reanimating them and filling them with hate and turning them back into the human world from a workshop of filthy creation. The Doctor stabs a badger in the chest urging the flames to catch hold. When he opens the creature up he discovers origami brains with insects huddled inside, feebly twitching antennae as they scramble about the papery walkways of their home. An insect hive housed in the brain of the Doctor’s attacker. The hornets can take control of human minds as easily as the beasts and can change their size at will. They love creatures with flesh to burrow into, with warmth inside (eww that is horrible). Mr Noggin was just working under some petty revenge on human beings for treating animals so badly. All of the animals contain a splinter, a shard of the hive mind. They want the Doctor’s mind at the centre of the swarm. He has put a force shield around Nest Cottage and is keeping the creatures, the hornets docile inside. The Doctor has been fighting the swarm again and again through time. The beasts are just the vessels of their enemy, what they really want is to possess the Doctor’s mind.
Audio Landscape: The sound effects are used far more sparingly than in Big Finish Productions but then that doesn’t seem such a bad thing because we are really drawn into the narrative and when we do hear a roar of a scream it really has effect. A ticking clock that strikes 13 times, a buzzing hornet, wolfhound barking, a psychotic weasel, flapping owl wings, whistling kettle, background noises in the museum, the sound FX for the hornets are terrifying, Percy’s creepy insect voice, the humming swarm, terrifying feral sounds as the house stirs at night, vampire bats screeching.
Musical Cues: The music during the Doctor’s frantic fight throughout the house is tense and exciting. Like the sound effects the music isn’t intrusive, it compliments the story where it is needed.
Result: Can you imagine anything more wonderful than tucking up under the duvet and letting tom Baker regale with a story written by Paul Magrs? Magrs descriptions make this a sensual, atmospheric listen; his use of language paints worlds more enchantingly than any number of sound effects. The story introduces some gorgeous imagery with the hornets and their paper hives inside the skulls of dead animals and from the set up it appears this will be an anthology of separate stories told by the Doctor to Mike Yates. You are put at ease by Tom Baker and Richard Franklin’s charming narration and sudden moments of violence have real effect. This is a subtly different sort of adventure on audio than we get from Big Finish but pleasingly so, The Stuff of Nightmares was as delightful as cuddling up with my hubbie and clutching a freshly brewed coffee: 9/10