We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re listening to Whispers of Terror, the third in the Main Range of audios. Let’s get started!
Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!
The date is unknown, but sometime in the relatively near future. The Sixth Doctor and Peri land inside a curious edifice: the Museum of Aural Antiquities. It’s a facility devoted to the preservation and curation of sound, including speeches and other voice clips; and it’s curated by the eccentric Gantman, who is supremely suited for a job involving sound, as he is blind. He and his assistant are assembling a recording of the final, unbroadcast speech from one Visteen Krane, and actor-turned-politician who committed suicide shortly before he would have announced a highly-anticipated bid for the presidency.
The Doctor and Peri arrive in the middle of this, and are quickly brought to Gantman. He explains that an associate of Krane, Beth Pernell, is coming to the museum to broadcast the speech, which will provide support for her own presidential bid. Almost immediately, however, something goes wrong: A strange collection of voices and other noises begins to haunt Peri and others in the museum…and a man is killed.
It becomes apparent that the voices are more than just sounds: they are an intelligent creature, existing only in aural waves. The creature has the ability to travel in any sound, no matter how quiet; and it wants to escape the museum. It is guilty of the murder; and strangely, it is discovered to be a remnant of Visteen Krane!
Beth Pernell arrives on the scene at the worst possible time, intent on making her broadcast. However, the Doctor and Peri discover that her intentions are not what they seem. After capturing the creature, they at last piece together her plan: She is subtly altering the speech to make it appear to support her, when in fact it was delivered in direct opposition to her. The Doctor captures the sound creature; but it is tortured, and then unintentionally released, by Pernell. It allies itself with the Doctor to bring an end to her scheme by first preventing the broadcast, and then by allowing it to happen–but with changes that further make it clear that Beth is not to be trusted or elected. In addition, the edited broadcast makes it clear that Krane’s death was no suicide, but rather, a murder plotted by Beth and carried out by her accomplice, Hans Stengard. Pernell flees the museum, but dies when her vehicle explodes, a final gift from the sound creature. The creature–or rather, Krane’s echo–now restored to sanity by the Doctor, opts to remain in the museum, being supremely suited to helping Gantman with his curation duties. The Doctor and Peri then depart in the TARDIS, leaving the blind Gantman to remark, appropriately, “Well, now I’ve heard everything.”
After a rocky start in The Sirens of Time, this is a good solo outing for the Sixth Doctor. Although by necessity this is still early in his lifetime (that is, given that Peri is the companion), he is far less abrasive than in his televised appearances, yet he retains his quick wit and a degree of arrogant self-possession. More striking is Peri’s performance here; I’ve often stated that for most of her televised run, she had the demeanor of a trauma victim or a sufferer of PTSD, but there is none of that here. Instead, she’s the sunny, confident, and somewhat snarky Peri that we first met alongside the Fifth Doctor, and perhap even more capable. It’s a good turn for her, and makes me wish that we had seen her this way on television.
The science behind the aural creature stretches credibility a bit; I kept thinking, “What if it just gets quiet? Won’t he die?” However, the idea of a non-corporeal creature that lives in a form of transmission is not new to Doctor Who, and would much later be explored onscreen in The Idiot’s Lantern and The Bells of St. John. The Krane creature is interesting to me; upon being tortured, it becomes the monster that it has already been believed to be, but is healed–completely inadvertently–by the very cancellation wave that is meant to destroy it.
I liked the pace of this serial. The episodes ran about twenty minutes each, a bit shorter than the television episodes of the comparable era; but there was no trouble following along as I experienced with The Sirens of Time. It felt like a quick story, but that was not a problem; it was coherent and well-done. The voice acting is excellent as well; although I suspected from the beginning that Beth Pernell was more than she seems, her true character stayed well hidden until it was time to reveal it. The same can be said for her accomplice, Stengard. Overall, this serial is excellent, and I recommend it.
Next time: Land of the Dead, starring the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa! See you there.
All audios reviewed in this series can be purchased here from Big Finish Productions; link to this story is below. This and many other audio dramas are also available on Spotify and Google Play.