The Elixir of Doom

Posted in Audio by - July 30, 2019
The Elixir of Doom

Released May 2014

Continuing with the immensely engaging prospect of Jo Grant traveling with transtemporal adventuress Iris Wildthyme as first shown in ‘Find and Replace,’ writer Paul Magrs now takes this most unexpected duo into the glamour of Hollywood in 1930s Los Angeles in ‘The Elixir of Doom’ where monster movies are all the rage and truth and fiction aren’t necessarily as far apart as one might expect.

The Companion Chronicles range has afforded Katy Manning a wonderful showcase for her immense talent and range, and her performance as Jo, Iris, and a good deal of the supporting cast in ‘The Elixir of Doom’ assuredly does not disappoint. Even with multiple of her characters sharing the same scenes, she effortlessly changes pitch and energy to vividly bring these settings and people to life, and Jo’s continued comparisons of Iris to the Doctor provide a solid foundation for the actions she asks about and takes that aren’t necessarily in line with Iris’s more carefree but persistent search through time and space for yet another party. Iris has occasionally been portrayed as a thorn in the Doctor’s side before, but her glaring insistence on purposefully creating an anachronism with her mobile telephone outside of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is a glaring clash of ideologies that provides the perfect backdrop for this bizarre mystery with ties to Irish herself.

Encountering the famed Hollywood diva Vita Monette who is renowned for her monster movies, Iris and Jo are as surprised as anyone to see that one of her monsters is apparently all too real as it attacks those at their current party. The Third Doctor had previously brought Jo to Los Angeles in search of a vampire in the 1970s, and that continuing motif of monstrous attacks throughout the history of this city is a nice throughline on which to base the conclusion of this current affair. Shockingly, the Doctor himself is also present at this party, albeit the Eighth incarnation in his velvet frock, and though he is very much a secondary character who features in only the briefest snippets, his inclusion provides Iris with a surprisingly deep amount of characterisation as Iris does her best to keep Jo away from the Doctor because of a fear that Jo may leave her to resume traveling with the Doctor. Iris is a character who is so much larger than life that these moments of vulnerability make her all the more human and empathetic, especially given the innocuous but horrible mistake she made during her previous encounter with Vita that continues to exert its influence here.

Derek Fowlds gives a suitably powerful performance as Vita’s husband, Claude, but ‘The Elixir of Doom’ misses an opportunity to really do something special by delving into the horror and psyches of those affected by one woman’s shocking desire to turn her ever-growing list of husbands into monsters to advance her own career. Hollywood is a grandiose setting made for the boisterous likes of Iris, but the tone that necessarily follows Iris around means that only a superficial horror romp can be offered rather than the dramatic exploration that might be possible within another context. Still, the strong blend of horror and comedy offered here is a strong reminder of just how unique Iris with all of her strengths and flaws is as a character, and ‘The Elixir of Doom’ only further hints at just how dynamic this leading duo could be in a series of ongoing adventures. This might not be the deepest or most profound story that some might expect given its placement so near the end of the monthly run of The Companion Chronicles, but it once more highlights how versatile this range has been from the start and features the typical strong direction and sound design to make it a living being in its own right.

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