The Fearmonger

Posted in Audio by - February 17, 2016
The Fearmonger

Released February 2000

‘The Fearmonger,’ Big Finish’s fifth entry into its main Doctor Who range and the first proper outing for the Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor, is a great return to form after the misstep of ‘The Land of the Dead.’ Featuring lasting themes and strong performances, this is a great script laden with impact and perpetual relevance and the first to truly show how successfully Doctor Who can transition to the audio medium.

McCoy and Sophie Aldred effortlessly slip back into the roles of the Doctor and Ace, respectively, as if no time has passed since the closing scene of ‘Survival.’ The characterizations of the two are perfect, melding some of the final televised series with some of the traits that developed a little later in The New Doctor Who Adventures novel range. The Doctor is calmly authoritative, unafraid to face any person or situation, and certainly has a few darker and more manipulative tendencies that he became known for later in his runn; Ace, on the other hand, is slightly more mature and proactive, still brimming with confidence and here even trying to take on some of the Doctor’s role for herself with varying effects and consequences. Their chemistry is apparent right from the start, and the script gives them fantastic scenes to play off of each other, especially in the second half.

While the leads can help carry a story, it’s the supporting cast that really fleshes it out and makes it believable, and fortunately ‘The Fearmonger’ delivers a strong array of performers. Jacqueline Pearce is thoroughly ominous as the focal politician Sherilyn Harper; her underling Roderick Allingham, played by Hugh Walters, is just as intimidating while maintaining a sense of subtlety. Rounding out the story is Vince Henderson’s boisterous talk show host Mick Thompson who is relishing Harper’s political chaos, Jack Gallagher’s Alexsandr Karadjic who heads a surprising terrorist group, Mack McDonnell’s Walter Jacobs whom the title holds some relevance for, and Jonathan Clarkson’s Paul Tanner who is an old friend of Ace’s. Every performance is commendable, and impressive feat given the size and scale of this production compared to some of the earlier releases.

The script is just as great, delivering plenty of plot twists and cliffhangers to demand attention for the full running time. Strangely, though, the Fearmonger creature may actually be the weakest point of the story, not because the parasitic force is poorly written but rather because it just seems a little out of place. In fact, this is a very political script and a lot of time is spent setting up the New Brittania party as the villainous force, but it could have worked just as well without trying to tie in any type of a science fiction aspect or monster. In fairness, the spreading paranoia allows for a rather fascinating insight into the tempestuous relationship between the Doctor and Ace. So, whether or not Doctor Who scripts should have a voice regarding politics and political dealings, it is very effective here even as the Doctor himiself focuses on the Fearmonger and dismisses the politicians as a human-sized threat, and it provides ‘The Fearmonger’ with a lasting relevance and impact that most other audios fail to achieve.

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