Demon Quest

Posted in Audio by - April 28, 2022
Demon Quest

Released September 2010


Following the success of Hornet’s Nest, Tom Baker, Susan Jameson and Richard Franklin return to the confines of Nest Cottage for a further set of five hour-long adventures written by Paul Magrs, this time under the banner of Demon Quest.  

The Doctor has returned to Nest Cottage just before Christmas in order to relax and complete some repairs on the TARDIS in the opening ‘The Relics of Time.’ After disassembling much of the console, he fears that his housekeeper, Mrs Wibbsey, may have put some of the crucial components up for sale alongside some other objects he has left around the home at the local church charity sale. Discovering that a man has taken his spatial geometer in exchange for a bag filled with an odd assortment of items that includes evidence of a Roman-era mosaic featuring the Doctor himself, the Doctor in a strangely out-of-character moment of bullying after he repairs the TARDIS enough to at least travel in time and finds evidence of a local goddess named Wibbsentia takes Mrs Wibbsey with him far into the past to uncover the truth behind this mystery of which they are both so clearly involved. Indeed, the two soon find themselves a part of that history when Wibbsey must act the part of a prophetess and priestess to save their lives. It soon becomes clear that she is receiving a legitimate message from somewhere, and as she foretells of the destruction of the Celts, the Doctor is tasked with assassinating a rival tribe’s wizard and monster. The Doctor quickly pieces together the true identity of this wizard, and all of established British history is at stake should this man’s identity be true and his stated plans continue. Via a brilliant pre-recorded cameo of Mike Yates, the Doctor and Wibbsey are able to escape assured death while beginning to piece together a far greater puzzle and apparent trap that began with a mosaic and is now leading them to 1800s Paris. Thanks to a fairly minimal use of narration with both characters experiencing events in the moment, ‘The Relics of Time’ is far more engaging than any of the individual installments of Hornet’s Nest and helps to set in motion a brilliant search through time for the Doctor’s missing components. Tom Baker and Susan Jameson have a superb chemistry that is proudly on display throughout, and while Baker is every bit as commanding as always with a vocal quality that defies age, it’s a particular pleasure to hear Jameson truly step into the spotlight to showcase how incisive Mrs Wibbsey can be even as a woman far out of her time.

With the TARDIS still unable to travel in space, the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey catch a train to Paris in ‘The Demon of Paris,’ following the clue of a Tolouse-Lautrec poster that features the Fourth Doctor holding a piece of his spatial geometer. In fact, Lautrec is under suspicion for dozens of murders, and after finding his studio filled with what should be artistic masterpieces in the future that have instead been defiled with red paint to make the paintings’ subjects look like victims, the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey track down the artist at the Moulin Rouge. Lautrec proclaims his innocence, and as an acquaintance is injured and fuels the speculation of the artist’s guilt, he asks Mrs Wibbsey to model for him after suggesting that someone else doctored the poster that brought them here and that he also did not deface the paintings in his studio. Unfortunately, the attic houses a dark truth that, aside from awkwardly shoehorning in an excuse for the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey to look at another clue that reveals that Mike Yates will at some point become involved on their quest, leads the duo to the cemetery and a mosaic-filled room that is all too familiar. This provides a nice visual link to the preceding story while overtly highlighting the immense threat before them that has framed Lautrec for its own gain in this time period. Of course, there once more is no real resolution here since there are still three more stories to go, but ‘The Demon of Paris’ maintains an excellent pacing that meshes together genuine danger and whimsy far more effectively than the previous set. With Jameson capably taking up narration duties to shed even more light on the wonderful Mrs Wibbsey who unwittingly finds herself integral to another mystery, this is a strong second installment that makes the most of its simple setup of a quest to tell a self-contained and yet interconnected story that is high on intrigue and that perfectly characterizes the brilliant Fourth Doctor whom Tom Baker again plays so energetically and seemingly effortlessly.

Traveling to the icy Murgin Pass in 1847, the Doctor and Mike Yates take refuge in a remote lodge with the king’s storyteller, Albert Tiermann, in ‘A Shard of Ice.’ Interestingly, it’s Tiermann who takes up narration duties for this story, and he quickly reveals his fear that the king will seek retribution for his failure to bring forth a new story. Believing the Doctor to be insane after hearing him recount his recent adventures to Yates and describe a batlike creature outside the window, Tiermann is nonetheless fascinated by the book of fairy tales the Doctor holds that bears Tiermann’s name as its author. Furtively praying for his angel who gave him the seeds for his many stories to once more return, Tiermann becomes even more intimately involved in these dangerous affairs, and he boldly proclaims that the book is far more important to him than any individual life. Finding a familiar green glow in their search for a missing acquaintance, the Doctor and Yates soon find the Ice Queen who is all too eager to discuss the deal she made with Tiermann so very long ago. The Doctor knows that she is a shape-shifting demon who must continually killed others to sustain her life and human form and that Tiermann’s whole life has been part of a long game to lure the Doctor to this spot, and he soon finds himself once more needing to escape from a familiar dematerialization chamber after this monstrous creature reveals crucial information to advance the set. Unfortunately, while the performances are all strong and the inclusion of Richard Franklin as Yates is most welcome and a natural fit for this saga, ‘A Shard of Ice’ offers only a slight variation on the previous story and doesn’t quite manage to reach the same level of visual intrigue. It’s a suitable story that again highlights how this demon is willing to use others to achieve its goals and how utterly ruthless she is, but the quick escape at the end to set up the next installment is beginning to wear thin and detracts from the momentum that might otherwise be built. This is ultimately a story that can be skipped without too much of the underlying narrative being missed, but the emotion at its core as Tiermann eventually comes to realize and accept the truth about himself and the Ice Queen certainly provides a strong enough foundation for this middle segment.

Trailing an unusual comic book cover, the Doctor, Mike Yates, and Mrs Wibbsey arrive in 1976 Central Park the day after a strange fireball fell from the sky nearby to begin the fourth Demon Quest installment, ‘Starfall.’ The Doctor quickly senses something odd in the atmosphere and becomes ill, an interesting narrative choice but one that ultimately serves to sideline all of the leads much more than might be expected in a penultimate story with the threat already revealed. To his credit, Trevor White imbues an incredible amount of energy to street vendor Buddy who features so incredibly prominently with expanded narration duties, but the noir stylings of those voiceovers and the traditional comic storyline of his girlfriend receiving powers after touching the meteor do little to create any true sense of uniqueness. And because the villain of this saga is already known to be a shape-shifter, there is never any doubt about the ultimate villainous reveal and the latest trap created for the Doctor here given the small cast and the pattern that the preceding three tales have all followed. The performances are all strong and do well to convey the appropriate range of emotions of those experiencing- both directly and indirectly- powers far beyond any human’s natural abilities, but the lack of dynamic sound design and American accents that occasionally veer into unbelievable tones fail to capture the true spirit of this locale during a summer that should be filled with Bicentennial celebrations. Still, Magrs does manage to incorporate some stunning visuals such as a group of figures appearing like the Doctor dancing around the final component of the spatial geometer, but far too much of the plot as a whole is a simple re-tread of previous events that even requires the Doctor to act as if he is piecing together certain elements of the demon’s actions for the first time. Baker, Franklin, and Jameson are again all captivating with the more limited material they are given, but aside from the conclusion in which the demon dematerializes with Mrs Wibbsey and tells the Doctor that the Sepulchre is prepared for him, there really is very little to recommend in this tale that effectively halts any momentum that the first two stories of this series in had generated.

‘Sepulchre’ closes out Demon Quest with the Doctor listening to his answering machine and hearing Mrs Wibbsey asking him to home in on her to save her from the old mansion in which she is trapped. Revealing that she kept a pendant piece intended for the Doctor from the church sale that just so happens to match and complete the piece found in the meteor previously, Mrs Wibbsey soon finds the Doctor and Mike Yates in her company some three weeks after she was taken to this locale. The Doctor soon discerns that they are currently at the edge of the universe, and although the lack of immediate urgency is an odd narrative choice given that this is very obviously a trap for the Doctor, ‘Sepulchre’ fairly nicely ties together earlier moments in which Mrs Wibbsey seemed to be acting with a greater knowledge than expected, her time as Wibbsentia a prime example. Unfortunately, as the Demon takes on a rather more congenial tone while revealing he serves someone else after finally making an appearance, the re-emergence of the Hornets from Hornets’ Nest as the lurking danger that has been driving these events to this point is somewhat underwhelming. The Hornets never truly managed to become an engaging threat despite their obvious powers and persuasive abilities, and this appearance seems to undermine the Demon’s previous exploits against the Doctor by raising the question of just why they took such a roundabout route to get the Doctor to this point. Getting Mrs Wibbsey to this point as a lure and leaving the locket behind with coordinates to this location would have been more than enough to kickstart this final segment by engaging the Doctor’s interest, and so all villainous motive is retroactively muddled even with the intriguing desire to use the Doctor to open up all of space and time for them. Although just as superfluous, a more effective callback to Hornets’ Nest is with the information that Ernestina Stott provides the Doctor to provide a suitable ending point for the Hornet threat that also allows him to save Mrs Wibbsey. The story does seem to realize that the Demon that has been so prominent to this point does suffer somewhat from this reveal, and so the cliffhanger ending in which the Doctor admits he has miscalculated seems to provide an opening for an opportunity to better explore this character, hopefully without such a blatant repetition as what was shown in the first four stories here. Franklin is in charge of narration here and acquits himself quite well even if this hybrid storytelling style continues to minimize some key moments that would be much better if experienced in the moment, and Baker and Jameson again excel in truly emotional roles for both the Doctor and Mrs Wibbsey. Still, Demon Quest as a whole is a fairly average affair after a genuinely engaging opening two segments, its finale perhaps attempting to do too much by circling back to the first adventures at Nest Cottage but at the least finally breaking the pattern of the first four stories to do something different. This lead trio remains a captivating one that absolutely deserves more stories and exploration, but the format and mostly uninspiring stories through two Nest Cottage sets that only occasionally feature engaging supporting characters have thus far failed to truly capitalize on the immense talents of these dynamic leads.

This post was written by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.