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Audio Drama Review
Once, Jo Jones (née Grant) travelled in space and time with the Doctor. Now, she is travelling with the trans-temporal adventuress Iris Wildthyme. Arriving in Los Angeles in the 1930s, Jo and Iris are immediately caught up in the glamour of Hollywood. Monster movies are all the rage in this period, featuring the likes of Lizard Man, Leopard Boy, the Living Skeleton, the Bloody Count and the Human Jelly. But sometimes, just sometimes, monsters are real...
You might think that The Elixir of Doom is your last chance to hear a Third Doctor story... but you would be mistaken. In spite of his face being pictured on the front cover and despite the CD featuring the early 1970s version of the theme tune (complete with opening judder), the Doctor’s third incarnation never actually participates in this story. Jo (Katy Manning) does briefly recall an adventure with “her” Doctor, which happened in the ’70s (which is in Earth’s future but Jo’s past), though we only hear about these events fleetingly and anecdotally. The Doctor does pop up from time to time, but – rather surprisingly – he is in his eighth persona rather than his third. Confused? You will be...
Jo is currently travelling with Iris Wildthyme (Manning again), this story being a welcome follow-up to Find and Replace, which I very much enjoyed. Iris has appeared in many other books and audio adventures, though I would say that only Find and Replace is required listening for embarking upon this release. In fact, it’s probably best if you don’t know Iris’s other adventures so well, because there are some seemingly contradictory references, including the trans-temporal adventuress’s discussion of regeneration. Come to that, why doesn’t Jo remember having met the Eighth Doctor in the novel Genocide? Perhaps this is a result of the timelines having been changed during Genocide and/or Jo’s memories being altered in Find and Replace. Confusing enough for you yet...?
Yes, this is the kind of madness (Magrdness?) that we have come to expect from writer Paul Magrs, and it is best not to take it too seriously. Here we also have the kind of vocal dexterity that we have come to expect from Katy Manning – only more so. Whereas in Find and Replace she sounded like two different actresses, here she adds a third distinctive voice to the “cast”, that of showbiz diva Vita Monett.
However, Manning is not nearly as successful when it comes to vocalising the words of the Eighth Doctor. Perhaps director Lisa Bowerman should have got a male actor to perform his lines. As it is, guest star Derek Fowlds is rather wasted as a range of bit parts with silly voices. The plot of The Elixir of Doom doesn’t hang together as well as that of Find and Replace, either, being rather lacking in mystery.
Even so, it is a shame that this is the penultimate Companion Chronicle and the last scheduled Iris Wildthyme release from Big Finish, which means that it could be the final time that we hear from either Jo or Iris, at least for a while. With so few regulars from the Jon Pertwee era still willing and able to participate in audio productions (just Manning and Richard Franklin), it is to be hoped that Katy will return to the fold before too long, playing either Jo or Iris – or ideally both! Wonderful chapess, both of her.
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