The Magician’s Oath

Posted in Audio by - March 06, 2019
The Magician’s Oath

Released April 2009

When freak weather conditions overtake London and a tube train is discovered buried in snow while dozens of people are found instantly frozen in Hyde Park during a typical July heatwave, UNIT is called in to investigate. Yet as Jo Grant and Mike Yates disobey orders to pursue a street magician witnessed at the scene, they discover secrets and powers that they may not survive in Scott Handcock’s “The Magician’s Oath.”

Yates is one of the more fascinating and developed supporting characters in classic Doctor Who because of his mental breakdown and ultimate redemption that provided a narrative arc the likes of which few characters ever experienced. Accordingly, his varied experiences as well as emotions stemming both from his time within and independent of UNIT offer a bevy of possible storytelling opportunities. Fortunately, he looks back at his time under the command of Brigadier General Lethbridge-Stewart with fondness, and he is somewhat dejected that today’s incarnation of the organisation is not run in the same manner. Unfortunately for this story, the scant hints on screen that there was something of a relationship between Jo Grant and Mike is brought squarely into focus precisely because of what was never said than what was, meaning that the potentially devastating emotional burden that Mike has carried with him all of these years has little context from which to flourish. Because the overall narrative does not deal with an actual relationship and instead has Mike indirectly learn that Jo knows how he feels but is glad he will not tell her before she loses her memory of recent events and forgets about his feelings altogether for so many years, Mike’s seeming acrimony that he gave up his personal life for his job with nothing in return feels somewhat out of place and requires further backstory to fully resonate.

Regardless of the gaps that still exist in the story between these two, Richard Franklin proves himself to be a remarkable narrator and wonderfully captures the essence of the many distinct voices present during his era while making the most of the character study afforded Mike. This strikingly elegant confidence pairs nicely with the mystery surrounding the mysterious Diamond Jack who can perform such unique tricks with a personal cost and who seemingly chooses others’ memories to enjoy because he has none of his own. It’s clear from the start that there is much more to this character than his simple but immersive tricks suggest, but this highly visual tale certainly does not follow a predictable path as the Doctor’s unending desire for a logical answer inadvertently reawakens the dangerous and evil truth behind this ancient alien force that has been presented in three distinct parts. Quite wonderfully, even Jack does not fully comprehend the situation, and his overzealous attack on himself is a fitting culmination to this foe who quickly obtains a level of power rarely seen in Doctor Who and genuinely seems like a formidable threat who could easily emerge victorious. Michael Chance proves every bit as integral to the success of this story as Richard Franklin, and the power of the dark menace he exudes simply cannot be overstated.

As is already typical for this range, the direction and score are wonderful, accentuating every detail offered for maximum effect. However, whereas the framing devices have often been equally or more engaging than the actual story being told in other stories, the frame offered here is simply too dependent on another beloved character without fully exploring the feelings necessary to truly make it something more impactful as so clearly intended. Still, as a tale striving to recapture the overall feel of the Third Doctor and his era through the eyes of one of his most well-rounded close associates, “The Magician’s Oath” must be taken as an unabashed success.

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