Doctor Who: The Thing From The Sea - Review

March 01, 2018 | BBC Audio

The Thing From The Sea is a new original Doctor Who audio story from BBC Audio written by Paul Magrs, which revisits characters from his 2009-11 series The Nest Cottage Chronicles, where Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor lives in a village with a housekeeper, rather than randomly travelling through time and space in the TARDIS as would be expected. In a departure from the previous series though, The Thing From The Sea is a one-shot, 70 minute adventure, with a single character telling a story to the listener, rather than a multiple-voice drama; specifically, the Doctor’s housekeeper Mrs Wibbsey (Susan Jameson) explains what happened when the Doctor took her on a trip to 18th century Italy to recuperate after suffering from some disturbing dreams…

There’s a rather excellent 1970s Who vibe to this story. A trip to enjoy the peace of a coastal Mediterranean village soon reveals its darker side: the villagers are drained, grim, and suspicious of strangers. There’s a castle on a hilltop, where a devilish Count lives. There are creepy homunculi and powerful sorcerers, and the local fishermen have just pulled something truly spectacular out of the sea.

There’s also pleasing parallel progression too, as Wibbsey explores the castle, hoping the Count might be able to offer her a longer-term solution to her dreams, while the Doctor meets the titular ‘thing from the sea’, eventually tying together in a conclusion that depends on the Doctor’s ability to exploit the weakness of the villains.

There are lovely touches along the way, with some properly gothic atmosphere, some creep-out moments, a healthy moral about what makes someone a monster, and even a name-check treat for Harry Potter fans. The ending is clever, even if, while you won’t precisely guess exactly how it pans out in advance, you’ll guess that the Doctor will Do A Thing, and he does. Certainly though, Magrs keeps us busy and interested along the way to his solution, making for a satisfying, atmospheric and affecting journey.

Jameson’s narration is pally, warm and intimate, giving the impression of Mrs Wibbsey knowing the Doctor of old, but being unwilling at first to automatically confide her fears about the potential of her dark dreams even to him. It’s a relationship that becomes quickly believable even to listeners who haven’t heard The Nest Cottage Chronicles, which you certainly won’t need to have heard in order to enjoy this continuation.

The Thing From The Sea will more than keep you entertained for the length of its run-time; it will give you some hearty shivers while also playing with some themes that might feel familiar from recent on-screen Who. There are distinct 1970s resonances to the storytelling, which means it feels right at home in the Fourth Doctor’s timeline. If you’ve heard the previous Nest Cottage Chronicles, it’s a welcome return for Mrs Wibbsey, while for any newbies to the relationship between the Fourth Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey, it serves as a warm, engaging introduction that will have you searching for her previous stories to find out more.

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