The Butler Did It

Posted in Audio by - August 05, 2023
The Butler Did It

Released August 2023


Landing at a spaceship repair port to see to the TARDIS’s engines, the Doctor finds that one of his old friends who also happens to be at the port has seemingly been poisoned. Taking on the role of lead investigator, he must gather together the suspects and clues to discover the truth in ‘The Butler Did It’ James Moran.

The fear that the title presents, of course, is that this will be a story that will revel in the familiar tropes and storylines that have become staples of the murder mystery genre, and unfortunately that very much proves to be the case. Paying due homage to the likes of Agatha Christie but more explicitly referencing the on-screen adventures of Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, the Doctor states that his methods will be based explicitly on what he has seen and read on countless other occasions, isolating everyone in the area before questioning them individually and also watching them interact with each other in hopes of hearing some vital piece of information slip as tempers flare.

This is all well and good to an extent, but while the in-story commentary about the format adds a certain element of self-awareness to the script, it also eliminates any showcasing of ingenuity from the Doctor as well as any opportunity for innovation or variation on themes and narrative structure. Perhaps the most egregious plot omission is any sort of reflection from the Doctor about being the last of his species when one of the only two members remaining of another species becomes afflicted, the anger, grief, and guilt that Christopher Eccleston can so brilliantly convey in his Doctor who is so fresh from the Time War being wholly absent with simply a statement from the Doctor that it is a mistake to make an enemy of him by harming his friend being present instead. A significant number of stories in The Ninth Doctor Adventures range have featured the last surviving members of a species to offer a sort of mirror for the Ninth Doctor, but this plot element is wholly superfluous here and actually becomes more of a distraction as ‘The Butler Did It’ again refuses to incorporate anything outside of its genre’s standards.

Naturally, the success of a story told within such a short running time will be dependent on its assembled cast of suspects, and presenting this mystery within such a toxic work environment where there is little sense of camaraderie hardly makes for the most engaging or welcoming setting. While an officious security officer and unenthusiastic client service specialist are understandable roles within this company, the next decision to make the lead mechanic so disliked and unlikable again seems present solely to guide the plot down a predetermined path. Paul Thornley, Louise Faulkner, and Andrew French do well with the material given, but there is ultimately no dimensionality to these characters who are very much present simply to flesh out the suspect list. Myra played by Emma Swan manages to fare better with characterization as she gains much more self-confidence through her interactions with the Doctor, but even the Doctor himself seems somewhat ineffectual here as he in unable to glean any meaningful information about motive and instead relies on his own confident performance to bring forth a public admission of guilt. Eccleston again gives an engaging performance, but this is absolutely a traditional and stereotypical murder mystery in the classic sense that offers no depth to the Doctor, any of the supporting characters, or even the more intriguing plot elements introduced. At times taking itself very seriously and at times acting as more of a farce, ‘The Butler Did It’ is quite notably lacking in the typical energy and ingenuity of Doctor Who, creating a completely average and inoffensive story that will have no lasting impact on the Doctor or its audience.

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.