The Lovecraft Invasion

Posted in Audio by - August 01, 2020
The Lovecraft Invasion

Released July 2020

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Joining the 51st-century bounty hunter Calypso Jonze to track down a mind parasite capable of turning its host’s nightmares into reality, the Doctor, Flip, and Constance in Robert Valentine’s ‘The Lovecraft Invasion’ find themselves in 1937 Rhode Island in the presence of weird fiction author, Howard Phillips Lovecraft. As time begins to run out before Lovecraft’s monstrous creations can break free and destroy the world, the Doctor and Flip must enter the author’s mind to fight from within while Constance must struggle with the author’s beliefs in the real world.

Lovecraftian influences have naturally featured in countless Doctor Who stories across the decades, but this is surprisingly the first time that the Doctor has come upon the actor himself. Yet while he has expressed excitement and admiration for most historical figures with whom he has crossed paths, his reaction to being in the presence of Lovecraft is decidedly more tepid and even reproachful. To be sure, Lovecraft as a person is hardly a testament to humanity given his racist and xenophobic beliefs, and Valentine rightfully ensures that these topics are thoroughly discussed both within the context of his own life and the lives of those around him, allowing Constance a particularly strong characterization given that she is from the same time period. However, while the script does eventually try to distinguish the author from his works and straddle the nuanced argument of the complicated nature and pain underlying anyone with his beliefs, the story for far too long attacks the author and bluntly states through the Doctor’s thoughts about one of his own favourite authors that Lovecraft’s works should forever be tarnished because of the man he was. There is certainly merit in discussing the social evils of a man who is unknowingly creating more cosmic evils in his mind, but making Lovecraft such a wholly unsympathetic character also takes away some of the emotional investment that may have otherwise been present.

Unfortunately, Calypso Jonze fares little better despite an immensely engaging performance from Robyn Holdaway. In every aspect, Calypso is the antithesis to Lovecraft’s beliefs, but little is done with the character in this story to truly warrant an inclusion beyond plot motion. The decision to join this adventure in media res with no introduction to Jonze or the weightiness of their plight eliminates the usual introductory backstory and development, and so hopefully future stories will bring back this character to do what this story surprisingly does not. Still, the presences of this overt amalgamation of everything Lovecraft hates along with a character representing everything he is not provide just as much insight into Lovecraft as the writing or lengthy diatribes against him, offering glimpses of a more nuanced take on Lovecraft that may have been more narratively resounding without sacrificing any of the horrors of the man Lovecraft was. Nonetheless, Alan Marriott excels as both Lovecraft and Randolph Carter while expertly distinguishing each even with a chosen accent that doesn’t quite capture the intended New England flavour, and his energy is infectious in each scene in which he features.

While many characters don’t quite reach their full potential here, however, the soundscape absolutely does. The dialogue is perhaps by necessity much more descriptive than is usual in order to build up and explain the grisly creations of Lovecraft’s mind, but the evocative sounds and music perfectly accompany those words to create a fully-realized and immersive experience that unifies the many disparate ideas that gain form in this realm. And although the resolution is telegraphed quite explicitly early on, the Doctor is afforded one of his more profound speeches that is sure to resonate with listeners, and Flip and he once more complement each other perfectly as reality and fiction blend and the consequences become increasingly severe. The direction is also very strong and allows the tension to continue to build as events become increasingly bizarre, and the writing and performances never allow the script to escape a more grounded nature given the very real reactions that should be felt and the rules that must be followed even in the more fictional world. As a result, while ‘The Lovecraft Invasion’ doesn’t quite manage to successfully delve into the psyche of the titular author or fully develop many of its characters, the experience as a whole certainly has more than enough merit to warrant a listen and unquestionably brings the creations of Lovecraft to life successfully.

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1 Comment on "The Lovecraft Invasion"

  • Android65mar

    My observation was that this audio seemed a bit preachy at times as we kept on being reminded of how racist and awful Lovecraft was. I felt the Doctor seems a tad inconsistent here, after all other stories show he was best mates with Winston Churchill, who was every bit as racist amd classist as Lovecraft. Furthermore he was also Prime Minister of a major imperial power and so much more liable to impact on the world, then Lovecraft, an obscure writer in his lifetime who died early in life.

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