What's it about: One wouldn't normally expect to find elephants, gorillas and rhinoceroses roaming free in Suffolk in the year 1911. One wouldn't normally expect to find an extra-dimensional police box at the same time/space location either. Two aliens, named the Doctor and Nyssa, exit said box, only to find themselves pursued by a hungry lioness – for they've landed in the private hunting grounds of the famous explorer Nathaniel Whitlock, who's brought together a motley group of friends and acquaintances for a weekend's shooting. But one of Whitlock's guests isn't all they seem. One of them wants the secrets of the Moonflesh, the mystic mineral looked after by Whitlock's retainer, a Native American known as Silver Crow. Because the Moonflesh is reputed to have the power to call down spirits from another real…and soon, the hunters will become the hunted.
An English Gentleman: I've been hoping for some time that Peter Davison would be afforded the chance to enjoy a trilogy without being encumbered with companions that steal his limelight. Such a shame that it should be with Nyssa because I feel the character, despite a renaissance that has seen her character live up to its potential in a way that it never did on television, has been overused in recent years. This would have been an ideal time to feature a 5/Peri or 5/Turlough season or even introduce a new companion to jazz his stories up a bit. There's nothing especially impressive in the writing of the character beyond the usual fifth Doctorish clichés and despite Davison admitting he likes the historical stories in the interview at the end I couldn't help but feel that he was a little disinterested in the whole affair. Fanfare for the Common Men aside, I haven't felt much creative energy from Davison or his stories since the Emerald Tiger trilogy. The Doctor thinks his body might be allergic to late October although he makes a great show of the fact that there is nothing more appealing than Suffolk at dusk at this time of year. As you could imagine from the most diplomatic of Doctors, he remains firmly on the fence when it comes to hunting. It makes sense not to upset his hosts but it would make far better drama if he had a stronger viewpoint. Sixie would tear through this crowd with his post-Two Doctors vegetarianism. He's ready to offer himself as the host to save Phoebe and appease Nathaniel. The Doctor was taught by Crazy Horse himself.
Standout Performance: This is a stunning cast that suffers the indignity of being shackled to a less than impressive dramatis personae. It's painful listening to decent performers trying to breath life and extra dimensions into characters that have none. Morris admits that this story was written in a hurry and it's clear that none of that scant writing time was wasted on the characters who wander about the story in a painfully predictable pattern. It's a group of upper class toffs that sound as though they have been assembled for an Agatha Christie effort. I would always give my time for a story that features the likes of Hugh Fraser, Time Bentick, John Banks and Francesca Hunt but Moonflesh almost convinces me that I shouldn't. It's isn't even that they are boring characters - they are simply exactly what you would expect from this setting without offering a single surprise. We're one more 'what ho!' and 'golly!' away from a Wodehouse pastiche. And boy did they shout a lot.
Terrible Dialogue: 'On a journey. A journey of the mind...'
'It's a head! It's a giant flying head!' - why would the Doctor feel the need to explain that when he and Silver Crow are both flying towards it?
Audio Landscape: An owl hooting, an elephant screaming, a lion roaring, pouring drinks, approaching horse and cart, crackling fire, dogs barking, a scream in the night, clock ticking, a scream in the dark, firing a shot, red lightning crackling, horses whinnying, dogs barking, meteorites falling, screaming shadows, beating wings, clay birds, hissing snakes, splashing under water, swimming ashore, a giant octopus.
Musical Cues: There's absolutely nothing wrong with Andy Hardwick's score for Moonflesh. It is atmospheric, moody and occasionally quite romantic but my issue is that I feel as if I have heard everything that this musician has to offer. There wasn't a single cure here that I felt I hadn't heard before in some place or another and many of them took my back to other, better stories.
Standout Scene: The ghost dance ritual at least has a little atmosphere, thanks to Ken Bentley's direction and John Banks' performance.