Released February 2015
The Fourth Doctor Adventures has never been shy with making references to and borrowing elements from the past, and while those attempts can sometimes feel rather forced, creating a claustrophobic and tense environment and channeling the gothic horror aspect of ‘Horror of Fang Rock’ is an obvious choice that pays immense dividends in the audio medium. In 1907, members of the Caversham Society have gathered on a small island to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the passing of Mannering Caversham. Arguably the greatest Magic Lanternist to ever live, Caversham also claimed to have summoned a demon from Hell itself, and as people begin to die, the Doctor and Leela must uncover the truth about what happened to Caversham one hundred years ago.
Justin Richards’s script may not be the most experimental or groundbreaking, but it is extremely confident in what it sets out to do while making excellent use of its historical setting and expertly tackling the little-known history of Lanternists without going into too much detail. The background regarding Caversham is exquisitely detailed, the only supernaturalist to not be exposed as a fraud summoning a demon at the stroke of midnight to protect him as he purposefully shot his brains out a fantastically macabre and haunting image. Yet the story only begins there as it is revealed that Caversham’s mind somehow became linked with the shadowy beast of which he had no understanding and that he shot himself to free his mind after adapting his lantern to capture the demon and then trapping it in a window’s component pieces which he then spread throughout the castle. In the present, the gathering of these pieces of glass has allowed the beast to begin to regain its former strength and to wreak havoc once more.
Light and shadow are, by their very nature, intensely visual elements, but the script and sound design make them spring to life fantastically in the audio medium. At the same time, Richards proves that he is perfectly comfortable with the two-part format, concisely laying out the core idea upon which the story is built and expanding upon it with intriguing developments and twists in a well-measured and well-paced manner. While a common misstep with the shorter running time is to put more focus on the Doctor or villain and less on the companion, ‘The Darkness of Glass’ finds a great balance with both the protagonists and antagonists featuring prominently, and Louise Jameson dutifully steps to the forefront as Leela’s instinctual intelligence and resourcefulness are called upon once more.
Gothic horror was such a staple of season fifteen on television and has had such a lasting impact on public consciousness that it’s surprising that more audio stories featuring Tom Baker and Louise Jameson have not more wholeheartedly embraced that aspect. However, even though ‘The Darkness of Glass’ is hardly the most revolutionary tale, it once more definitively proves how perfectly the resultant evocative atmosphere and claustrophobia transcend mediums. With strong performances and truly stunning sound design, ‘The Darkness of Glass’ is also a testament to how looking to the past can enhance the overall product without feeling forced or overindulgent, a perfect showcase for the mantra of this range to recapture the magic of the original run of Fourth Doctor televised serials.