The Slaying of the Writhing Mass

Posted in Website by - February 09, 2022
The Slaying of the Writhing Mass

Released January 2022


The Doctor and Charley become trapped in temporal traffic jam caused by tourists coming to witness the titular and pivotal event in the planet Ileiko’s history in Eddie Robson’s ‘The Slaying of the Writhing Mass.’ This alien entity enslaved the Ileikans until the legendary hero Salan slayed the creature with a single stone, but the Doctor knows all too well that sometimes legends can be wrong.

From the start, Robson superbly manages to merge the mundane and extraordinary, and the setting of a traffic jam and the eventual inclusion of vendors and of a school class filled with utterly uninterested pupils is a brilliant twist on the typical offerings of science fiction. While it is true that the ultimate plot hardly advances in the first half as the necessary exposition about this world’s most important event is discussed, the lighter tone creates a more relatable and relaxed atmosphere through which this information can be processed and questioned. The supporting characters are largely sympathetic and wholly engaging, and the humour and conversations flow completely naturally at all times to allow the characters and audience alike to fully understand all available information.

Although the Writhing Mass itself is hardly a genuine focal point until the conclusion, the Doctor and Charley being split up for the second half allows for the idea to be explored from two very different angles. And while the ultimate truth behind this creature is in no way novel or shocking, converging the two storylines so succinctly works to great effect and allows for plenty of discussion about potential paradoxes and of similarities to human myths as everything known about this world’s past has the potential to be completely changed. Unfortunately, while the class aspect works well as a part of developing the background, including a thoroughly uninterested pupil as an inadvertent companion for the Doctor wears thin incredibly quickly. Shiloh Coke does exactly what the script asks of her, but Constella is simply not engaging or engaged enough to warrant her inclusion no matter the unique dynamic with the Doctor that results.

Like its rather abstract title that some will love and some will hate, ‘The Slaying of the Writhing Mass’ is a story filled with incredible highlights that just about overcome the shortfalls of an initially meandering plot that culminates all too predictably and of a one-time companion that distinctly detracts from the overall experience. Once more, however, it’s the brilliant performances from Paul McGann and India Fischer that carry the overall story as its tone somewhat jarringly slips between humorous and deadly serious. Given how long it’s been since these two featured together, it’s easy to forget just how brilliantly they work together and help to capture the audience’s imagination, but they are every bit as dynamic and charismatic as ever and continue to prove just why the era of the Eighth Doctor and Charley is so beloved and fondly remembered. This is an incredibly visual story that perfectly blends the more surreal notions of science fiction with the more routine elements of everyday life, and ‘The Slaying of the Writhing Mass’ will certainly entertain in the moment with its unique setting, vivid characters, strong lead performances and sound design, and intriguing notions about paradoxes and misinformation at the core of established facts.

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