The Devil’s Hoofprints

Posted in Audio by - October 26, 2021
The Devil’s Hoofprints

Released October 2021

SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

In February 1855 across Devon and Dorset, dozens of kilometres of hooflike marks appeared in the snow, the tracks crossing over barriers such as houses and rivers without break. While several theories such as badgers, kangaroos, and even experimental balloons were put forth to explain the phenomenon, no definitive answer ever arose. Over a century later, the Doctor, Sarah Jane, and the Brigadier have come to Devon themselves to visit a controversial scientific establishment following a mysterious death and reports of strange happenings nearby, and their investigations soon lead them to the danger of that ages-old mystery in Robert Valentine’s “The Devil’s Hoofprints.”

Valentine takes full advantage of the scant details and evidence surrounding this legend and creates a centuries-spanning conundrum that offers an intriguing look at part of that mystery. To that effect, the Icewalker is a suitably visual and visceral creature that becomes much more than simply a rampaging beast, and the relationship between this entity and the calculating Chilton provides a strong foundation for this tale that proves to be surprisingly personal for the Doctor. Forced to confront what it meant to be exiled while also running the risk of changing history forever, the Doctor is challenged in several unique ways throughout, and that difficulty is all the more effective due to the performance of Barnaby Kay that positions Chilton as a credibly dangerous threat that can certainly play the longest game if needed. Very human sentiments and very science fiction elements blend together well to keep the threat simultaneously grounded and grandiose, and while some elements are resolved far too easily and indirectly through secondary characters rather than by the Doctor and Sarah, the well-paced plot traverses multiple time periods to great effect while showcasing the effects of the passage of time in a manner the Doctor rarely experiences.

As always, Tim Treloar gives a brilliant performance as the Third Doctor, and his incarnation’s empathy, daring, and indignation are on full display as he comes to realize the scope of the threat before him here. “The Devil’s Hoofprints” even manages to incorporate a couple of more overt action sequences that- especially with the experimental balloon- perfectly capture the adventurous spirit of the era. Of course, the emergence of Sadie Miller as an incredible voice for Sarah Jane only further evokes that sentiment, and there’s no understating just how important it is for Big Finish to once again have access to the warmth, courageousness, and fortitude of one of the Doctor’s finest companions. Treloar and Miller are wonderful together and appear to have already formed an immense chemistry which should allow for much more detailed exploration of an underserved period from the show, and knowing that Jon Culshaw is available to provide a stirringly commanding yet empathetic voice for the Brigadier as needed should ensure that the full scope of storytelling opportunities remain open to this audio range.

So much of “The Devil’s Footprints” could have fallen flat as one-dimensional in other hands, but everyone involved has joined to create a layered and tense adventure filled with nuanced performances that makes the most of its multiple settings and the Doctor’s own sentiments. It won’t provide all of the answers for an ancient mystery, but the pieces it chooses to are satisfying and resonant to end this volume on a high and keep expectations high for whatever may come next.

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