The glitz and glamour of Hollywood comes calling in this latest instalment of the Fourth Doctor’s audio adventures. But this is 1930, as the silent movies have been replaced by talkies – a turning point in cinema history that viewers of The Artist will be familiar with. The Doctor, Romana and K9 pop in on out-of-work silent star Loretta Waldorf – to find she’s literally become silent...
It turns out that several of Chaplin and Fairbanks’ contemporaries have been tempted into making a comeback in Hammerstein Productions’ big new movie, only to mysteriously lose their voices. Their investigation of this strange affliction sends the Doctor and his companions across LA and into a confrontation with the secretive Doctor Julius.
The ‘30s Hollywood setting is a great fit for Tom Baker’s Doctor, who has barrels of laughs fooling around in front of the cameras and showing off to his favourite stars. This comedic edge is the best thing about James Goss’ script, with another highlight being K9’s argument with a taxi driver... which is funnier than it sounds.
The plotting does at times feel reliant on certain Doctor Who tropes, though on top of this there’s an interesting exploration of the loss and loneliness felt by the forgotten stars of days gone by. The stars losing their voices is a neat sci-fi way into this theme, and the Doctor grappling with this affliction himself is a lot of fun, especially given that it’s the iconic voice of Tom Baker which stands to be lost.
In terms of villains, there’s a group of monsters made of celluloid; these guys fit the setting, perhaps, and give the heroes opportunity to make use of film’s flammable nature, but they don’t really tie into everything else happening in the story, and the explanation of their nature fails to satisfy. On the other hand, Alec Newman provides a layered and entertainingly selfish human villain in Doctor Julius, and his confrontation with the Doctor in the later stages of the story is a gripping scene.
Though it’s not perfect, this is a solid Doctor Who romp with some nice gags – and it’s always fun to hear this classic TARDIS team in action.
THE FOURTH DOCTOR ADVENTURES 6.3: THE SILENT SCREAM (DOCTOR WHO) / AUTHOR: JAMES GOSS / DIRECTOR: NICHOLAS BRIGGS / STARRING: TOM BAKER, LALLA WARD, JOHN LEESON, PAMELA SALEM, ALEC NEWMAN, ANDRÉE BERNARD / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW