The Blooming Menace

Posted in Audio by - February 11, 2023
The Blooming Menace

Released February 2023


As the single members of London’s Fellows Club fall victim to a plague of emotions while infatuated by giant flowers, only the Doctor acting as Club member Toby Entwhistle’s valet offers any degree of hope in James Kettle’s ‘The Blooming Menace.’

Overtly styled as a comedy and leaning into familiar aristocratic tropes about class and marriage, ‘The Blooming Menace’ fails to truly deliver on its potential and seems content to more or less go through the motions while allowing the villainous plants to drive the narrative. Indeed, the haughty aristocratic accents are horribly overplayed, notably at the very start, and the supposed twist about Phil as a woman yearning for a man and pretending to be someone wholly different to gain his attention without asking him what she truly desires is so blatantly obvious from the very beginning that any impact upon its reveal is lost and the hapless Toby’s acuity diminished all the more as a result. Dave Hearn and Milanka Brooks are fine in their respective roles and end up filling the companion role somewhat effectively despite the comedy’s requirements making their characters less dynamic and resourceful than they might be in other circumstances, but there really is little attachment or investment created for these characters even as their deeper emotions come to the fore which ends up creating a rare misstep for this series that typically characterizes its main supporting players quite well.

Because so much time is spent withholding crucial information from the Doctor, egregiously being noted when he actually asks someone if she just said something incredibly important, there’s little time for the story to develop an impactful resolution or, indeed, the threat as a whole beyond the somewhat superficial notion of feeding off of artificially created emotions. The more intriguing alien wartime recruitment story at the core of the Club and these forced emotions is surprisingly minimized even after it is discovered, and so the intended scope of this tale never actually materializes and leaves something of an unfulfilled promise instead. Without question, so much more could have been done with these intriguing plant creatures, but hardly-shrouded identities and oft-repeated lines like a ‘specific Pacific island’ that assumedly are thought to be funny become memorable for the wrong reason and take up far too much of the story’s time without achieving what other approaches could have done far more subtly and effectively.

Truly, ‘The Blooming Menace’ never quite commits to being overtly comedic or serious, and the ambivalent tone surrounding its more bizarre notions and dialogue is a tremendous hindrance to the progression of its plot. Nonetheless, it does treat the Ninth Doctor exceedingly well as he is the one element that successfully straddles the line between humour and gravity effectively. Sarcastic and glib but also refusing to take any nonsense from anyone around him, this Doctor is much more like his televised version than often features in the audio adventures, and Christopher Eccleston seems wholly invested in the role and this story with a tremendous energy and strength on display. However, despite this wonderful characterization of the titular Time Lord and a strong sound design to support the intriguing menace at its narrative’s core, ‘The Blooming Menace’ is an odd and wholly underwhelming instalment that will likely leave little impact once it has finished.

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