Ferril’s Folly

Posted in Audio by - April 24, 2019
Ferril’s Folly

Released May 2011

Returning to season sixteen during the search for the six segments of the Key to Time, Peter Anghelides’s “Ferril’s Folly” sees the Doctor and Romana arrive on modern-day Earth in the small village of Norfolk. It is here that former astronaut Lady Millicent Ferril has established an observatory to track the meteor from the Cronquist System that nearly killed her years before, but her past is anything but forgotten as metal soon becomes lethal to everyone around her.

Many of the entries in The Companion Chronicles have experimented with different framing devices and means of delivery the story, and “Ferril’s Folly” takes the novel route of having Mary Tamm’s Romana sharing narration duties with Madeleine Potter’s Lady Ferril. In theory, this is a brilliant move because it allows the unique dynamic of the TARDIS travelers to be explored by an external and unaffiliated character. Given that Ferril is also the villain with the unique power to control iron that the synopsis of the story blatantly gives away, the storytelling potential is all the greater. Unfortunately, nothing results from this setup to prove it worthwhile here as, aside from a few quips about the Doctor’s flippancy and eccentricity that belie his obvious intelligence, Ferril actually reveals surprisingly little about herself and motivations as would be expected. Instead, it’s still Romana who comes to divulge the important information about this foe, all but making this exercise a quirky novelty rather than a truly integral component.

Sadly, the vocal stylings of Tamm and Potter are quite jarring and create something of a disjointed experience for what is supposed to be one cohesive tale. Tamm recaptures the more reserved and aloof nature of her Romana excellently, but Potter gives a much more ostentatious performance that takes away from any semblance of reality, a choice that hardly seems fitting of an astronaut who has been through such tragedy even with the otherworldly changes she has experienced in the interim. Given that the sound effects likewise don’t match the intensity needed, the promise of this modern Earthbound setting quickly falters and the story instead becomes simply a collection of ideas that is unsurprisingly highlighted by an obligatory scene of household instruments like cleavers and trays attacking. This is a story that refuses to take any chances and do anything truly memorable, instead relying on standard clichés both with villainous dialogue and action, and even the short jaunt into town to further develop the setting similarly falls into this trap and becomes more of a time filler than anything else.

The Fourth Doctor era with all of its grandeur and visual stylings has proven to be a difficult one for The Companion Chronicles to fully capture, and “Ferril’s Folly” is unfortunately hardly a showcase of what this range has achieved despite a strong performance from its core character. With a cliffhanger placed more because of its timing than actual dramatic need and constant reminders of what the audience should be seeing that the sound effects can’t quite compensate for, this ends up feeling like more of a first draft than a final product and is begging for a more tempered pairing for Mary Tamm and a bolder approach to its material that soon sees the entire planet with iron such a vital component of it at risk of falling under Ferril’s command.

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