The Demon Song

Posted in Audio by - February 18, 2023
The Demon Song

Released February 2023


Following an unexpected but nonetheless intriguing revamp of The First Doctor Adventures in April 2022 with Stephen Noonan stepping to the role of William Hartnell’s incarnation after David Bradley had played it for so long both on television and in audio adventures, the relatively little-explored time with Dodo as the sole companion aboard the TARDIS once more features in ‘The Demon Song’ by Big Finish newcomer Bob Ayres.

Of course, the 1960s that were the modern day for Dodo and for audiences during Hartnell’s portrayal are remarkably different from the modern day that that the 2020s have so far presented, and bringing that duo into its current audience’s present day is a fascinating foundation for this story. Dodo, in particular, is shocked by how clean and bright every location is, and the very public displays of individuality regarding facial hair, fashion, hair colour, and even tattoos all contribute to a certain degree of culture shock that is exacerbated all the more by the pervasiveness of smartphones that she likens to miniature televisions in everyone’s hands. Dodo was hardly the best-served companion during her original run, and Ayres’s script and actress Lauren Cornelius use these very familiar elements of everyday life to make Dodo instantly relatable with a surprising amount of characterization and insight provided in short order within the very vibrant setting of Camden.

Though Dodo may simply want to purchase a pair of shoes from the shops, stepping squarely into the middle of a string of disappearances allows her to showcase her bravery and impulsiveness, and Cornelius once more delivers a dynamic performance as the truth behind the siren song of an other-dimensional alien comes to the fore. Similarly, Noonan continues to impress as the Doctor who here is firm and irascible but also paternal, excitable, and inquisitive; although his voice is quite distinct from Hartnell’s in its depth and power, Noonan has clearly researched this era in detail and has complete control of Hartnell’s mannerisms and energy to create a uniquely engrossing performance that expertly evokes the spirit of the First Doctor in every sense. With his friend now missing and being surrounded by conspiracy theories and those whose enthusiasm has perhaps gotten the better of any common sense regarding the song and its spread, Noonan’s Doctor capably takes control of the narrative from the start as he tries to piece together the puzzle before them, and the modern vernacular and social norms combine for a unique background element that challenges the Doctor’s accepted views on conversation and decorum at multiple points along the way.

At a brief length of just two episodes, ‘The Demon Song’ is hardly the deepest mystery that the Doctor has ever faced, but the vibrant cast of supporting characters led by George Fletcher, Henry Nott, and Bhavnisha Parmar help to make this an engaging experience from beginning to end as they try to navigate the hypnotic influence of the pervasive song and eventually come to understand the significance of a dilapidated church and the true power of music and dissonance in every sense. Aided by brilliant sound design and music to bring the public and hidden sides of Camden to life so well, Ayres makes the most of his story’s allotted time to showcase and explore his setting as well as his core and supporting characters maximally, rushing the conclusion just a bit in the process after another gateway manifests but otherwise delivering a sterling debut that will hopefully lead to further scripts in the future.

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