The House on the Edge of Chaos

Posted in Audio by - July 13, 2019
The House on the Edge of Chaos

Released July 2019

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

In Eddie Robson’s ‘The House on the Edge of Chaos,’ the TARDIS brings the Doctor and Lucie to a vast and solitary house on the planet known only as Horton’s Orb, and the two are shocked to find that only an endless expanse of static sits beyond the oversized windows. With aristocrats of the house’s finest families living on the upper floors and the working class toiling endlessly below ground, the regimented but functional way of life soon finds itself under threat as the static continues to try to enter.

Any Eighth Doctor adventure set solely within such a unique domicile will inevitably draw comparisons to the all-time classic ‘The Chimes of Midnight,’ and while ‘The House on the Edge of Chaos’ doesn’t quite scale those lofty heights, it easily manages to evoke a sense of tense unease as the expectations of refinement and status combine with the unexpected chaos and conflict at the very core of this house. Indeed, in a structure that spans five miles in one direction and seven miles in the other, the fact that some 8,000 people work in underground mines and fields within its confines to serve the 300 members of the upper class highlights just how staggering this feat of engineering that robots continue to add onto truly is. Of course, when a new wing collapses and the Doctor and Lucie become separated from the TARDIS, they find themselves with no choice but to ingratiate themselves with the Hortons while trying to uncover the truth behind the deadly static outside that has kept the human population captive since the original two Earth transport ships arrived here.

While Lucie finds herself confronting the fact that there is a dearth of eligible bachelorettes on the upper floors and the plans that others have begun making for her, ‘The House on the Edge of Chaos’ is the first story of this set to truly place Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor into a traditionally proactive role as he adeptly takes charge with little resistance. Brave, passionate, and at times volatile during his investigation that strikes at the very heart of the Horton family, Robson writes the Doctor perfectly, and McGann delivers a powerful and enthusiastic performance that recaptures this earlier version of incarnation wonderfully. Naturally, the mystery centres around just where the building materials for this ever-expanding locale are coming from, and the truth that comes to light is suitably grotesque and brilliantly intertwines the pervasiveness of guilt and the ramifications of family conflict. Some of the potential cleverness is mitigated by some of the twists having been done elsewhere within Doctor Who and by a resolution that is far too easy and quick after such meticulous buildup, but the emotional history of this world nonetheless allows for a wholly engaging drama to unfold.

‘The House on the Edge of Chaos’ emphasises its tense and claustrophobic atmosphere to the maximum, and the sound design and steady direction perfectly enhance the unsettling sense of danger that pervades each and every room within the house. While the supporting characters don’t have the opportunity to really develop into anyone memorable aside from the patriarchal Darius whom Rupert Vansittart plays so strongly, the core mystery and the complex personal and familial emotions at its foundation provide a satisfyingly resonant tale that offers something quite distinct for this TARDIS pairing that still has so much to offers fans old and new alike.

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