Fright Motif

Posted in Audio by - August 14, 2021
Fright Motif

Released August 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The actions and outcome of the Time War have weighed heavily on the Ninth Doctor since his television introduction, Christopher Eccleston beautifully portraying a haunted individual beset by survivor’s guilt who nonetheless does his best to remain hopeful and to bring hope to others. As such, few settings so perfectly capture and mirror the essence of this individual as post-war Paris, a city that has experienced an occupation but yet retains a sense of optimism for brighter days ahead. In Tim Foley’s ‘Fright Motif,’ the Doctor arrives in 1946 Paris and stumbles upon a musician who has lost his musicality and yet gained a predator, something that uses sound and dissonance to pray on the unguarded.

Music as a concept is a fairly abstract one and one that is certainly open to interpretation, and it’s fitting that the malevolent other-dimensional entity revealed as something of an amalgamation of the opposite should remain so immaterial and abstract as well. The audio medium is perfect for exploring the nuances of sound, and although there is far too much discussion and argument about the merits of jazz, there is little doubting the effectiveness of having a genre so predicated upon improvisation featuring so heavily alongside the Doctor who is very much the same. However, the absence and dulling of sound features just as prominently as sound itself here as traps for this creature are made, and the palpable sense of a lost glory as well as the genuine turmoil of mental health come together to create a layered and complex story that in many ways follows a similar blueprint to the utterly superb ‘Vincent and the Doctor.’ It’s perhaps unfair to levy any sort of comparison to that story which is an all-time classic, but even if ‘Fright Motif’ can’t quite reach those highs, the dark tale of an artist suffering from depression in a world of the abstract nonetheless provides another thoroughly engaging, reflective, and introspective experience.

The Ninth Doctor really is suited for these more intimate stories, and although he realizes that his improvisation does put others at risk as he comes to understand the true reason for the creature’s foothold here, he once more proves incredibly adept at connecting to the nuances of humanity amidst the dangerous tumult that seems to be stalking Artie Berger. Eccleston is once again wonderful as he confronts the themes of loss and grief while trying to find himself in this new post-War universe, and he imbues an incredible amount of gravitas and empathy into his performance while impressively continuing to highlight his character’s very alien nature. Alongside him, Damian Lynch with a suitable American accent is excellent as this haunted musician who is trying to come to terms with what is happening to him. There is a staggering level of emotion on display, and although the abstractness of the creature means that a full exploration of Damian’s condition never quite manifests, the many serious and sensitive topics his introspective journey touches upon are still impressive in scope and realization.

Paris vividly comes to life as another character with an atmosphere drenched in tension and intrigue, and the city’s rich musical history is certainly touched upon to further expand the emotional power that music holds and the hope it can instill. While ultimately the ambition of ‘Fright Motif’ perhaps outstrips its execution, and while it would have been pleasing to hear music itself feature more given its importance to the script, the layered trio of supporting characters along with a well-developed Doctor and setting make this reflective and contemplative tale a memorable one that will be sure to resonate with a significant portion of the audience.

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