The Fourth Doctor Adventures - Series 5 Episode 5 -
Written By: Alan Barnes
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Tom Baker (The Doctor)
Lalla Ward (Romana)
Celia Imrie (Madame Tissot)
Nickolas Grace (Goole)
Stephen Critchlow (Noni)
Helen Goldwyn (Wax Marie)
Released by Big Finish May 2016
(purchase from Amazon UK)
In The Gallery Of Ghouls, we find the Doctor and Romana in Brighton, the year is 1833. They are there to visit the opening of the Brighton Pavilion, but unfortunately, the Randomiser made them materialise eighteen years too early.
From the off, the listener can tell that this story will be a somewhat lighthearted affair. The Doctor believes that seagulls are agents of the Black Guardian, and has issues with deck chairs, while Romana believes that eighteen years is 'the blink of a time tots eye', and is happy to while away the time touring Europe.
However, when they discover that Madam Tissot's Wax Exposition is in town, they both decide to take a look, after all, waxworks are the Doctor's 57th favorite thing.....or is that 58th?
The play on the name Tissot is, of curse quite purposeful. It turns out that Madam Tissot (the rather fantastic Celia Imrie) is a tad jealous of Madam Tussaud's fame, and feels a tad robbed of the limelight.
We join Madam Tissot and her son Noni (yes, Noni) at the Exposition, where Tissot is bemoaning a local rival Mr Goole (Nickolas Grace), who runs a similar attraction, Goole's Gallery of Ghouls on the other side of town. They discover the Doctor trying to put right a waxwork display depicting the death of Nelson. The Doctor insisting that he himself was present at the actual event, along with a Sea Devil. Things start to spiral out of control for the Doctor and Romana though as they discover that the head of Marie Antoinette has been stolen, and the finger of blame is of course pointing straight at the Doctor and Romana.
From here on in things descend into a dark farce. Who is the mysterious Mr Goole, and why does he seem to just melt away? Why are his waxworks so very lifelike? And are we really being invaded by aliens from the planet Slough? I'm sure you can see exactly where all of this is going.
The Tom Baker and Lalla Ward episodes always managed to squeeze in a lot of humour, and Gallery of Ghouls really drives that home. The comic timing between the pair are exquisite here, providing much comic relief after the previous two episodes of pretty hard sci-fi. The feel of this audio reminded me a lot of The Talons Of Weng-Chiang yes, it's dark, but there are a lot of funny moments.
The cliffhanger to part one is expertly, and tightly constructed, and is also pure Who of the time. Our heroes are separated, The Doctor and Noni are trapped in Goole's Cellar Of Terror, where the lifelike waxworks, are seemingly coming alive. While outside Romana and Noni are trapped by an alien masquerading as a local policeman, welding Dick Turpin's blunderbuss.
Celia Imrie is a joy as the guileful Madam Tissot, whose claims all ring about as true as Walter Mitty. She speaks with a haughty French accent, which she loses in a moment of truthfulness, and is exposed as Mary Barnes, from Wolverhampton. Nickolas Grace is great as her much put upon son Noni. This audio is written by Alan Barnes, and directed by Ken Bentley.
K9/ John Leeson are absent from this audio, but much like the classic era in which this story is set, he is mentioned a lot (this usually happened when the terrain would have been a nightmare for the prop to negotiate).
All in all, there is a lot to recommend Gallery of Ghouls, I promise you that you will find it well worth a listen. Gallery of Ghouls is available from Big Finish now.