Lost Hearts

Posted in Audio by - May 20, 2024
Lost Hearts

Released May 2024


Strange apparitions haunt an English university in 1903 in ‘Lost Hearts’ by Lauren Mooney and Stewart Pringle, and while Liv and Helen strive to protect an undergraduate from a secret and dark society, the Doctor finds a willing ally in his search for the truth.

Doctor Who has a long history of successfully telling haunting and riveting ghost stories, and the university setting along with the strange secrets and perceptions about certain areas successfully create an unnerving and atmospheric tension when even assumed reality is called into question. However, the story tries to include a bit too much along the way without actually proving why those decisions needed to be made. That the undergraduate at the centre of affairs is Helen’s grandfather is a coincidence rife with storytelling potential; while Helen’s own existence does come to be threatened because of these events which in turn allows Nicola Walker to showcase some brilliant emotions as the desperate Liv refuses to give up, there is no real sense of import or emotions stemming from Helen herself. This was a rare opportunity to delve into her familial past and to visit her own memories, but instead nothing truly meaningful is really learned about her grandfather or Helen’s relationship with him. Joe Pitts is suitably engaging as Robert Sinclair, but for most of the script he is treated as any other random supporting character might be until that familial connection is used to put Helen herself in danger.

Likewise, the story tries to hide the fact that the Monty James who has joined along for this adventure is, in fact, renowned author and scholar M.R. James whose ghost stories continue to endure in popularity. Wisely, ‘Lost Hearts’ does not try to suggest that the Doctor inspires James to become an author and does portray him as a very competent and well-intentioned individual, but because of his shrouded identity that only the Doctor is aware of, the script once more passes up the opportunity to truly delve into who this man is and the legacy he continues to enjoy. Again, Steve Brody is a tremendous addition to the cast as James, but the character as written could have been anyone who happened to be in this area at the time who possesses an open mind and a shrewd intelligence.

Despite the truly strong imagery and the intriguing supporting characters not quite used to their full potential, however, ‘Lost Hearts’ falters more because of the uninspiring Professor Gray who borders on completely unbelievable given the tonality and accent chosen that makes it abundantly clear from the start that he is a one-dimensional, power-driven man. The scheme revealed is an intriguing one that does manage to briefly create a sense of tension when the Doctor walks into the dangerous web of deceit that has seemingly cost so many others their lives along the way, but the manner in which the resolution unfolds by highlighting the cleverness of Liv and the Doctor inadvertently undoes that drama and again lessens the overall experience by not letting events play out and showing any true consequences. It’s a shame that there are so many incredible ideas in here that fail to completely develop and come together to create the greater whole that seems so tantalizingly close at hand, but the narrative misses outweigh the strengths in this one, relying on the non-villain performances and the strength of this TARDIS trio’s relationships along with the incredible imagery, tension, and sound design to quite successfully elevate the overall experience.

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