Winter of the Demon

Posted in Audio by - December 08, 2023
Winter of the Demon

Released December 2023


In Roy Gill’s closing instalment of In the Bleak Midwinter, ‘Winter of the Demon,’ the TARDIS arrives in Victorian Edinburgh as famed industrialist Sir Donald Shaw seeks to electrically illuminate the city. Horribly burned people are being found dead, however, and the Doctor fears that a power far stronger than electricity is about to be unleashed on the unsuspecting public.

In many ways, ‘Winter of the Demon’ is the most traditional story of this set, and it plays to the strengths of its main characters exceedingly well within this historic city that is used far too infrequently as a setting for the Doctor’s adventures. Audacity proves adept at manipulating societal norms and expectations to her advantage as the group once more finds itself within the presence of some of society’s elite while Shaw plans to launch his tremendous electrical promise. As Audacity and in turn the Doctor find themselves enthralled by an archaeological expedition with ties to a past far beyond even the Doctor’s expectations that will come to represent such an important finding in 1997, Charley on her own quest with Captain Archie McLellan to explore Shaw’s power facility and the mysterious lack of any obvious power source there both combine to create a unique mystery that makes the most of its visual setting and the significant historic roles of the One o’Clock Gun and of Calton Hill and other landmarks.

Audacity has never been afraid of asserting her presence, but this story truly allows her to prominently take charge alongside the Doctor, and Jaye Griffiths and Paul McGann are immense together as their characters try to piece together the deadly mystery before them and to then stop the devastating truth from consuming the entire city and world. Separately, India Fisher and John Scougall share an immense chemistry as well that makes their characters’ burgeoning flirtations and obvious affection wholly believable even as Charley makes it clear that she must remain with the Doctor. Their journey through Edinburgh and the resulting discussions and exploration of honour and morality make for an equally intriguing and vital plot thread, and Archie’s overwhelming kindness and open-mindedness prove to be a perfect complement to Charley’s determination in what could easily be a prelude to many more continuing adventures together, even if those adventures are truly limited to simply a brief trip to his family Christmas dinner.

David Robb gives a suitably haughty and condescending performance to bring Shaw to life as an uncouth aristocrat who at the very least does seem to truly believe in the merits of coal-free electricity for his city. However, while Shaw clearly believes himself to be superior to everyone around him as he excuses the resulting deaths as necessary steps to a greater future, Shaw lacks any dimensionality as well as a certain element of power or charisma in his voice to make him a more formidable and engaging villain. There is no redeeming element to his intonations or treatment of others to offer an opening into his misguided intentions, and this odd disconnect makes him something of a trying figure that doesn’t quite mesh with the rest of the story despite his obvious crucial role. This could be easily forgiven if the ultimate manifestation of the ancient evil did provide a more formidable threat, but the titular demon is defeated almost as soon as it appears with relative ease, again creating a hollowness at the point of the script that should have been the most narratively fulfilling. Instead, the underlying mystery, the brilliant use of the iconography and history of Edinburgh, and the sterling performances in the split investigations carry ‘Winter of the Demon’ to create a nonetheless truly intriguing and emotional iteration of a well-trodden Doctor Who storyline.

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