“I’m trying not to think about it”
For those in the know, this is Doctor Who’s fortieth year in existence, and, fittingly, BF are treating 2003 as one big party. Towards the end of the year we have treats galore- the fifth, Sixth and Seventh incarnations of the Doctor get to battle some of his greatest foes- Omega, Davros and The Master respectively. 2003 will then be rounded off by Zagreus, a special story featuring four Doctors- Davidson, Baker, McCoy and McGann. But that’s what’s to come, and for this month, we have new audio Nekromanteia to keep us sustained.
Nekromanteia is described as writer Austin Atkinson’s attempt to create a ‘Blakes 7 style outer space romp’ in the style of our favourite Timelord. This is very well achieved- characters are double crossing each other all over the shop in this story, and this is definitely not set on Earth! Massive battle ships, lazer guns- all add to the real outer space feel, but never cross into Star Wars territory- this is a grim beast indeed.
Cults, drug use, sexuality- all are addressed in this tale, but never feel as if they have been put in for the sake of it- each subject has a valid and relevant place in the plot.
The main bulk of this release revolves around the Fifth Doctor, Peri and new companion (created for audio) Erimem landing the TARDIS on a planet in the Nekromanteia system after the new crew member feels strangely drawn to this area of the galaxy. What follows I wont spoil for you, although it is a play full of questions- why is Erimem drawn to the Nekromanteia system? What is the secret of the Witches deity Shara? Why was the entire corporation star fleet sent to Nekromanteia- and what does corporation big wig Wendle Marr want on the surface? Questions like this run through the brain as the play advances, and as one problem is solved, another rears its ugly head.
The cast is generally good, with Glyn Owen as the gruff Commander Harlon and Nicola Bryant as companion Peri giving excellent performances. However, the cast is marred by a flat lead and a very poor villain. Firstly, Gilly Cohen as the leader of the Nekromanteian witches, Jal Dor Kal. Kal should be a terrifying, black figure who adds the thread of menace to the play- however, Cohen reduces a potentially strong antagonist to a cackling, hissing pantomime queen. She has the evil voice, mannerisms and hideous laugh that after a few scenes just get old- Cohen is a capable performer elsewhere, but here she is the evil witch that every 5-10 year olds school play should have.
Now onto the lead- Davidson’s Doctor. I must admit I have never seen Peter as the Doctor on TV at all, nor have I heard any fifth Doctor audio’s. It just struck me in this play that he was a little flat, and he never really leaped out of the story, making every scene without the Doctor seem to miss something like Paul McGann did so well on Storm Warning. Maybe its because I’m not used to the fifth Doctor, but he seemed dull in this audio at least.
Minor quibbles aside though, Atkinson’s plot is engaging in parts, with a few scenes here and there not totally riveting as they might be, but on the whole Nekromanteia has a sparkling premise, nice dark undertones and, in places a refreshingly adult feel. Oh, and how could I forget- episode two’s cliff hanger is BRILLIANT!.
ANY GOOD?: Nekromanteia is a mixed bag. The quality of the sound and the feel of the play is excellent-also the plot holds out well. I think this really show’s, with work from BF’s talented team how well Blake’s 7 would work on an audio format. The cast isn’t always brilliant, the script not always engaging, but when it’s good, it’s well worth the effort. Hey, they’re not all classics!
THREE POINT FIVE OUT OF FIVE