Sunday, 13 February 2011

The Hollows of Time written by Christopher H. Bidmead and directed by John Ainsworth

What’s it about: The Doctor and Peri have been on holiday, visiting old friend Reverend Foxwell in the sleepy English village of Hollowdean. But why are their memories so hazy? Piecing together events they recall a mysterious chauffeur, who is not what he seems, and Foxwell's experiments that could alter the nature of reality. Huge sand creatures have been sighted on the dunes, and many of the locals are devoted to a leader known as 'Professor Stream'. But who is Stream? And what lies within the Hollows of Time? The Doctor will discover that not every question has a definitive answer... (haha -that is definately true!)

Softer Six: Even poor Colin Baker admits that he was lost by the labyrinthine (his words, not mine) story and that after two days working on it he didn’t get his head around all the complexities of the script! Now that is not always a bad thing, Ghost Light produced wonderful results when the star of the show didn’t have a clue to its purpose in 1989 but it does please me that a man of Colin Baker’s clear intellect couldn’t get his head around this either! There’s hope for me yet! The Doctor tells Peri that perhaps things are best left unsaid which is pretty ironic for the most verbose of Doctors! I love the idea of the two of them going on holiday together, packing suitcases, heading to a sleepy village, its precisely the sort of fun we were denied on the telly. The Doctor is narrating this story, trying to remember the events as they took place. Don’t go grabbing at him because he couldn’t bear for anything to happen to his coat! He is told he needs to take more care of how he treats people. A grasshopper mind let loose on the universe (I wasn’t quite sure what that meant…). The Doctor knows a lot of long words (out of the mouth of babes!). Very good at capturing the trust of children which is a really endearing habit. For him history is the only thing, telling you where you’ve come from and where you’re headed. The Doctor finds it helps to stay cheerful on his misadventures! He quotes Captain Oates leading everybody to think he is going to sacrifice himself!

Busty Babe: She turns up in crossword puzzles don’t you know! The Hollows of Time proves that you should be really happy that Peri is not your mother…she is left to babysit the petulant Simon throughout and she keeps telling him off, sending him to bed and telling him to do as he’s told! You always become your parents, right? Peri really shouldn’t go around frightening the populace! Peri is deliberately deceived by the Doctor who is trying to mix business with pleasure. There are a number of scenes where the Doctor and Foxy are chatting and you have Peri in the background shouting ‘heel!’ at the mechanical turtle that made me howl with laughter! Peri thinks she is being complimented at one point when she is actually being told to piss off! Simon suggests that Peri is the Doctor’s girlfriend but she firmly insists she is his assistant!

Great Ideas: Professor Stream is the local Swami and made all his money out of electronics on the 70s. Simon, a local lad, has a shell, which moves of its own accord and emits gravity waves. Jane’s mind is being controlled and she leads the Doctor right back to the TARDIS and her hands arch over the console like an avenging angel! Peri and Simon go on a Tractator hunt. It was at about this point that I lost the plot…

Isn’t it Odd: Why did the ticket collector know where the Doctor and Peri are going? Why is this a narrated story and why can’t the Doctor remember what is going on…the story never explains why the Doctor’s memory is so mashed up! At one point the Doctor sounds like he is going to give us an explanation and says ‘start with a three dimensional, imagine it with its own timeline…’ and never finishes his explanation! The story deliberately confuses itself by not only telling a non-linear narrative but also slipping in and out of the Doctor’s forgetfulness within the narrated story! Susan Sheridan does a reasonable job as Simon but I still don’t understand why the character is being played by an older woman when there are plenty of great young actors out there! Simon manages to be as much of a petulant little ¤¤¤¤ as Adric (‘They’re mine and mind your own business!’). All this exhibit A/exhibit B is absolute bollocks, I can think of a hundred better ways to bring back the Tractators than as little kid running around with their carapace (remember Frontios when people where ‘eaten by the Earth…’). I know a lot of it has been cut out but there is still far too much descriptive dialogue, especially during the car scenes (‘We’re on a motorway!’ and ‘Its pulling me in!’). In episode two things go from confusing to frustratingly baffling when the Doctor and Peri start walking back on their own timeline – what was the point of these scenes? If this was the case they should have had unexplained moments in the first episode which are explained by them going back Instead it is just more disarray in an already complicated script! Why use the Gravis if you are not going to utilise his fabulous middle class voice? Why use the Tractators if you’re not going to do anything with them? People seem to have real problems with Stream not being revealed as the Master and the Doctor being thick for not realising the anagramical nature of his name but really that is the least of this story’s problems! My issue with Stream was that he hardly appeared in the story and was mostly represented by his chauffeur, he turns up at the stories climax to tell them he is going to take over the universe or bend it to his will or some other such nonsense but overall he is completely anonymous throughout. He makes for a very unspectacular villain. So with a story that has baffled me to buggery throughout, an absent villain and a technobabble-strewn plan that makes no sense, Bidmead then goes and ends the story with some technical jiggery pokery that confused me even more! How does any of this translate into drama? Geospatial coherence, quantum gravity engine, rupturing strands of space, time tunnels linked to time rotors, amplified gravity bubbles, cosmos star fields and Phenomenoptera encasements….WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN???

Audio Landscape: Birdsong, muddy puddles, train tracks, sparks, crowds in the church, a babbling brook, the Doctor trapped in a thorn bush, ticking clock, the tide brushing against the sand, cave echoes, smashing through the car windscreen, whistling vortex wind, the car crashing into the mansion, whizzing time corridor energy, the grunting Gravis, Tractator noises.

Musical Cues: Pleasingly reminiscent of Frontios, the musician utilises woodwind instruments to give this story an unusual score.

Standout Scene: I can’t pretend to understand what happened when the TARDIS became a Citroen but the scene of the Doctor crashing it into the mansion would have been great to see on the telly!

Result: Utterly inexplicable, here you have a story with a mysterious villain who dishes up some indecipherable technobabble for unknown motives! The Hollows of Time starts off well with an intriguing flashback structure, the Doctor and Peri going on holiday and promising some Tractator action and then singularly fails to do anything interesting with all three. This isn’t a piece of drama where the plot services the characters and we go on journey with them, it’s a science lecture where the characters are sacrificed to the nonsensical, illogical narrative. It’s a pity because the direction is evocative and the performances are very good but in this case I have rarely heard an audio where the script has singularly destroyed any chance of enjoyment. This was a real shock to me because I adore Castrovalva and Frontios but The Hollows of Time is singularly Bidmead’s worst ever script (I even preferred Renaissance) and one of the most turgid excuses for a story in Doctor Who canon: 3/10

Buy it from Big Finish here:


Conrad Slater said...

I love the word turgid - maybe because it sounds a bit like turd.

I'm looking forward to listening to this series and even before reading this was fully prepared to expect the worst when it comes to Bidmead.

Doc Oho said...

Hey there Conrad! I have listened to the first four stories now and Hollows was by far the worst - Nightmare Fair was a little slow but diverting, Leviathan is pretty much a lost classic rediscovered and don't listen to the reviews that slate Mission to Magnus - its really good fun!

Kevin said...

I totally agree with Doc Oho, spot on.

Unknown said...

Was so excited when i heard there was this audio featuring the Tractators.Very poor.A massive disappointment.