The Crooked Man

Posted in Audio by - February 12, 2017
The Crooked Man

Released March 2014

The reliable John Dorney pens the third entry in the third series of Big Finish’s The Fourth Doctor Adventures, delving expertly into the gothic horror genre while eventually proving to be operating within the confines of a sequel to a beloved classic tale. As the Doctor and Leela come upon a series of monstrous murders along a wintry seaside, they soon realize that something supernatural is at work, a force of evil hiding behind secrets and doors and seemingly tied to a particular young family.

Dorney proves quite quickly in ‘The Crooked Man’ that he has an apt willingness to utilize macabre details, and the titular Crooked Man’s attack on the bookshop is incredibly chilling to effectively set the scene for the events to follow. Once it is revealed that the characters introduced are actually fictional constructs of literature, the story takes an unexpected turn as the weak point between the real world and the Land of Fiction becomes the focal point, the Crooked Man coming through the fissure and allowing another fictional denizen to follow him for each person in the real world he kills. With available storytelling mediums and the sheer magnitude of stories constantly expanding, the lesser-known characters are being forced out of the Land of Fiction due to space constraints, a fascinatingly novel spin on a well-known conceit even if only the most egocentric fictional characters agree to the plan.

The score and sound effects help to create a sinister and haunting atmosphere that is used to great effect from beginning to end. Unfortunately, though, ‘The Crooked Man’ is one of those stories where the Doctor is perhaps too intelligent, several steps ahead of everyone else and needing to explain how seemingly disparate events are connected. Indeed, it almost seems as if two distinct stories are being told at once as the narrative shifts between the murder investigations and Laura’s domestic affairs. That said, Simon’s connection to the Land of Fiction works fairly well within the context of the story and is foreshadowed quite nicely even if Laura’s motivations for accepting him are not suitably explored; similarly, the use of an infant as a bridgehead between the two worlds due to the near-unlimited imaginative potential is eerily effective even if the resolution is rather rushed due to the limited running time.

Despite one notably shaky supporting performance and a sometimes-rushed plot, ‘The Crooked Man’ still manages to stand out as something wholly unique in this range. The Land of Fiction is rife with storytelling potential, and Dorney finds a new angle to further exploit this realm magnificently. However, the notion of these second-tier characters is perhaps one that needed more time to fully develop as the characters themselves end up being rather forgettable by story’s end as events rush along to their conclusion. Still, the very literal Leela being at odds with this wealth of imagination is used wonderfully and helps to add yet another layer to this surprisingly emotional story. ‘The Crooked Man’ undeniably features a wealth of great ideas and is without question a very enjoyable tale, but the two-part format keeps it from reaching its full potential and leaves some very intriguing and important aspects unexplored along the way.

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