Doctor Who Audio Drama Review: Horror of Glam Rock

We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re listening to Horror of Glam Rock, episode two of season one of the Eighth Doctor Adventures range of audios. Let’s get started!

Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!

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Fresh off the events of Blood of the Daleks, the Eighth Doctor is still trying to return Lucie Miller home to 2005. Once again, the TARDIS rebounds off the Time Lords’ shield in the vortex, this time hitting the right planet, and even the right area—in the wrong decade. It’s 1974, the era of glam rock and all its glittering hype…and we’re landing at a truck stop.

Or, at least, that’s what we’d call it in America. This combination gas station/café/gift shop has its problems, though, in the form of monsters that waste no time in killing and eating a bystander. Inside, the Doctor and Lucie meet a motley cast of characters: Arnold Kornes (played by the fantastic Bernard Cribbins, of Wilfred Mott fame—I am an unabashed fan of this actor and his usual character, and I don’t mind saying he was great here); Pat Ryder, the drummer for the recently disbanded Methylated Spirits, and also the future aunt of Lucie Miller; Ron the Roadie; Flo, the café’s waitress; and Tommy and Trisha Tomorrow, a pair of up-and-coming glam rockers in contract with Arnold, who have a very dangerous secret.

Unable to worry about that now, the Doctor takes charge of the situation and gets the main entrance barricaded against the creatures. Arnold takes issue with this, insisting that he has to get the Tomorrow twins out so that they can perform on Top of the Pops. While the Doctor is distracted, he allows Ron to try to leave, resulting in Ron’s death at the hand of the creatures. The Doctor is furious with Arnold for allowing it to happen. Meanwhile, Lucie comes to the shocking realization that Pat is actually—or rather, will be, in twelve more years—her Auntie Pat, her mother Mary’s sister. She tries to convince Pat of this by revealing things she could not otherwise know; but she stumbles when Pat wants to know what the future holds for her. Uncomfortably, she reveals that Pat will never be famous, and almost reveals that she will never have children of her own.

stylophone

Stylophone

It is revealed that Tommy has been in contact with otherworldly beings, which he calls “The Only Ones”, meaning, the only ones who don’t think of them as monsters. They are using the wavelength generated by Tommy and his stylophone to arrive on Earth and locate the twins. (Side note: I had to look up this instrument. It’s an odd little device, something like a handheld electronic piano, and I don’t believe they are manufactured anymore—the audio commentary seems to indicate that the one used in production is a bit of a relic. I’ve included a picture.) Tommy believes they will take the twins away with them for a better life, but Trisha is frightened by the idea. The Only Ones are aware of the Doctor, and try to turn Tommy against him. Later, Arnold gives in to his impatience and kidnaps Trisha, dragging her out of the café, with Tommy going willingly, despite the Doctor’s intervention. Trisha is quickly killed by the Only Ones, and Arnold retreats inside, where the Doctor yells at him for Trisha’s death. Tommy insists the creatures can resurrect Trisha, but of course they do not; he refuses to return inside.

While retrieving some medicine from Lucie’s bag for Arnold, Pat finds Lucie’s MP3 player, and is finally, fully convinced they are from the future. This gives the Doctor an idea for dealing with the creatures, and he begins building a device using Tommy’s stylophone, which he had already appropriated. It backfires, however, when the stylophone increases the power of the creatures; and they demand to be let in. At the same time, Tommy attempts to kill Pat to get the stylophone back. The creatures break in, and Arnold stays behind to fight them off while the others retreat. He appears to be killed.

The Doctor trades the stylophone for Pat. Tommy plays it again, allowing the Only Ones to fully manifest. They admit that they only want humans as a food source, and used Tommy to that end, intending to feed on his fans. Tommy, feeling utterly betrayed, faints. As the creatures move in on the survivors, Arnold appears, injured but alive, and gives the Doctor the final part missing from his machine. He uses it, and converts the creatures to a sound signal, then traps them on the MP3 player. As long as Lucie never plays that track, the creatures will stay gone.

Tommy is badly shaken by these events, but Arnold promises to provide care for him. Lucie says goodbye to her aunt. As the Doctor and Lucie exit to the TARDIS, the Doctor asks if she is okay with exploring the universe, given the opportunity; she admits that she is. She inquires about how the situation at the gas station will look to anyone inquiring; the Doctor jokingly blames it on the Hell’s Angels, and then offhandedly admits that he was once a part of that group (in his otherwise-mellow second incarnation, no less!)…on Mars.

After their departure, Pat and Flo get a visit from a strange woman at the café. The woman inquires about Lucie Miller, and is revealed to be the Headhunter.

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I was unsure about this audio when I started it. I had heard some opinions which stated that it’s not one of the better EDAs, but after listening, I am pleased to disagree. It’s a very self-contained story, almost a bottle episode of sorts—a very small, closed group of people, cut off from the outside world, with few ramifications for the world at large. That’s very much in keeping with its title, though; the title is a play on the Fourth Doctor serial Horror of Fang Rock, which was very similar in setup, right down to the invading and somewhat-incorporeal aliens (the Rutan, in that case, in their only televised appearance so far). As such, the continuity links are few; Lucie’s aunt Pat will make another appearance in The Zygon Who Fell To Earth, but that is still future at this point; and the aforementioned issue of the Doctor’s time in the Hell’s Angels, while referring back to the Second Doctor, has not actually occurred in any media yet released (as far as I could tell). Of course the Headhunter arc will continue through the season.

The dialogue is less effective here than in the previous entry, especially regarding the Doctor and Lucie; they spend much of the story apart, dealing with other characters, and therefore we don’t get as much banter between them. Still, the acting is on point for everyone involved (and again, I feel compelled to plug for Bernard Cribbins here—he’s excellent in most any role).

Despite the title, the story avoids licensing issues by excluding any established music from the glam rock period, although it makes reference to David Bowie and others. However, it does contain some original works, including a glam version of the Doctor Who theme that has to be heard to be believed; and the music is very much in the correct style. The music tracks are available as bonus tracks, even in the Spotify release. There are a number of nods to various bits of glam rock history, more than I can list here; for a good rundown, check the DisContinuity Guide’s page.

While the self-contained nature of this story allows you to skip it, you really shouldn’t, if you’re working through the season. It’s a good entry, and short as well, coming in at a little over an hour; and it’s well worth the investment of time. Although the pieces of the Headhunter arc are small at this point, I suspect it will help to have heard them all when the season comes to a head. And really, more Eighth Doctor can’t be a bad thing in any capacity, right?

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Next time: Main Range 6, The Marian Conspiracy, starring Colin Baker and Maggie Stables! 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.

Horror of Glam Rock

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