Sunday, 26 December 2010

A Sting in the Tale written by Paul Magrs and directed by Kate Thomas

This story in a nutshell: The hornets have finally invaded the TARDIS…

Teeth and Curls: Whilst the characterisation of the Doctor has been of a high standard throughout this mini series I think this is my favourite so far because it shows him at his most desperate a flawed. In a story that reveals why he has taken the hornet’s invasion as his own burden we realise that he is responsible for everything we have seen so far. The Doctor thinks of himself as an ethereal spirit of midwinter misrule when he is lost in the snowy forest. I loved his impromptu improvisation of Good King Wenceslas. He really is an old drunk these days, asking for a hot toddy when he is saved by the nuns. He doesn’t need a reason to go rambling anywhere and the cold rarely bothers him. The Doctor has been brought before some very important leaders and heads of state in his time and he has visited some magnificent supreme beings. Think of him as the Pied Piper except he uses aniseed balls to lure a hornet possessed wolfhound. I love it when the Doctor enthuses about the TARDIS and describing her as bright blue and beautiful in the inky night, her windows lit up a fierce ice white is beautiful. Once the wolf takes a chunk out of him he isn’t sure if he has been possessed by the hornets or is being killed by primitive wolf bite diseases. The TARDIS has been his refuge for centuries and they protect each other. Is his mind as labyrinth as his vehicle? He makes a huge mistake and as a result the creatures devour him from the inside. His powers might be seen as Godlike but he prefers to think of himself a watcher, a dabbler, nothing much to write home about. The Doctor has never felt so alone in the face of the enemy. His wounds with Gallifreyan efficiency. Antonio’s infection is revealed to be the Doctor’s fault. The web of time heals itself and bends the Doctor to its will and makes sure everything runs with deadly accuracy. Even the Doctor doesn’t want to know everything about himself.

Great Ideas: A woodland in the heart of winter with a nunnery in the centre of the tangled countryside – you can always tell when Magrs is writing as the locations are so evocative. The sisters are protecting the Mother Superior, which turns out to be a pig controlled by a malignant entity bound up by the will of thousands of hornets. A rarefied, musical humming emanates from within, the Queen herself. The rabid feral dogs are also possessed and make a desperate assault on the nunnery. The abbey becomes a slaughterhouse, the dogs cracking their heads against the wooden doors and forcing entry. The Queen is a flash of liquid gold at the heart of the swarm. All the hornets slip into one of the hounds and it follows the Doctor back to the TARDIS and tears through its infinite corridors. The TARDIS corridors loop round and about and twist into a vast cats cradle, a labyrinth. Treasures from a thousand worlds are secreted in the TARDIS. There’s an English country garden, a swamp, a laboratory, a garage, a sitting room, a tropical greenhouse, libraries, corridors, galleries, walkways, staircases and escalators, voices crying out and a galley kitchen that smells of crepes suzette. The hornets were blow to Earth by accident, creatures of twilight from the inky depths of space. The churning morass of insects surround the Doctor and slip into his mind. They are space vermin akin to a swarm of fleas hopping from one host to the next with nothing to offer the universe. There are so many creatures that see the rich pickings on Earth for their own selfish needs. We land on the Venetian lagoon where Antonio was infected and the events recalled from the last story are seen here from the Doctor’s point of view. The story ends with Mrs Wibbesey tempting the Doctor and Mike from the cellar into the path of the hornet controlled beasts filling Nest Cottage.

Audio Landscape: Wintry winds, growling dogs, a snorting Mother Superior, crackling embers, a swarm of hornets filling a room, the TARDIS doors shutting, laughter, a waterfall, clocks, inside the Doctor’s echoing mind, flowing waters, a clock chiming in Venice.

Musical Cues: Dramatic music enhances the tension during the siege of the Abbey. A trumpet sounds the TARDIS leaping into the time vortex. Haunting choral music surrounds the Doctor’s possession. There is a fabulous room full of chamber music.

Result: The Hornets Nest story is turning out to be as multifaceted as the fractured eyes of a hornet. Another rich brew of atmospheric locations, stylish ideas and rich language but with the added tension of having the TARDIS invaded by the hornets which takes the story to a whole new level. Never before has the ship felt like a magical box with infinite wonders within. This is where the story begins and the Doctor is so desperate to defeat the hornets he is willing to rewrite his own timeline to stop them. Poor Simon was desperate for me to look at possible cruise holidays for the summer but he could not drag me away from this gripping piece, proof that I am hooked on this sumptuous style of narration. Ending on a growling, snarling cliffhanger, I don’t want to listen to the last part because it will all be over: 10/10

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