Destiny of the Doctor: Night of the Whisper
Released by AudioGo
Produced by Big Finish
Written by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
Directed by John Ainsworth
Released: September 2013
Such is the nature of the Ninth Doctor era in its brevity that we viewers can tend to reduce it to its most memorable tropes and lines of dialogue. For better or for worse, Christopher Eccleston’s incarnation of the character is generally recalled for his use of the phrase “Fantastic”, his darker portrayal after the increasingly more jovial and whimsical classic incarnations and ultimately the fact that we only spent thirteen forty-five minute instalments of time in his company. Not since 2005 have we received any fully-fledged new outings for the Ninth, a term of absence which inevitably places pressure on the latest entry in the Destiny of the Doctor series to deliver. Perhaps more so than in the case of any of the other releases in the range, the cast, writer and director of Night of the Whisper had an entourage of lofty expectations thrust upon them from the outset.
At the same time, though, from the outset it’s immensely reassuring to discover that the range’s writers have re-established an accurate interpretation of their designated era of Doctor Who. Whereas Alan Barnes’ take on the Eighth Doctor in Enemy Aliens last month was a little unsteady, this month’s representation of the Ninth by Cavan Scott, Mark Wright and reader Nicholas Briggs seems completely true to the televised version of that incarnation. Particularly, the representation of the Ninth Doctor’s post-Time War isolation and scarred psyche are handled with respect and dramatic power, as we get the sense once more of a tormented soul who has committed atrocities beyond depiction (until this November, at least). One instance where Police Chief McNeill confronts the Time Lord regarding his understanding of regret and the ramifications of omnipotence works magnificently, going far in terms of replicating the dark and raw emotion that Eccleston brought to the role eight years ago.
Another area in which Scott and Wright have managed to replicate past elements of Who is in the case of Night’s adversary, although this reviewer has to hope that this connection was unintentional. The scribes’ depiction of the antagonist menace, the cunning and manipulative Whisper, echoes beats of A Town Called Mercy's Gunslinger at times. Yet where Toby Whithouse produced a layered and emotionally complex villain in his Series Seven televised episode, the Whisper carries none of the same emotive gravitas or any memorable traits to allow for any enduring impact on the listener once the credits roll. This is one of the only arguable major setbacks in the piece, which is certainly a pleasing contrast to the legions of caveats to be found with its immediate predecessor.
Strangely enough for a release which does such a fine job of capturing the motifs and moral complexities of its era, one of Night's most memorable elements by far is its mandatory Eleventh Doctor cameo sequence. Though Nick Briggs (and arguably no other actor bar the man himself) can't quite fully capture the quick-witted and rapidly shifting portrayal that Matt Smith lends the Doctor, his attempt is valiant and both the soundtrack and the script work superbly in capturing the bold message the Time Lord's future self transmits in order to help avert a future crisis. Briggs can’t be faulted, however, in the midst of his other portrayals- replicating Chris’ Northern tones, Billie Piper’s grounded London accent and John Barrowman’s broad Scot-American quips all at once must have appeared a rather daunting challenge, yet the man behind the voices of the Daleks and Cybermen pulls off that feat with aplomb and this reviewer would be eager to see Briggs take up the roles of the TARDIS trio again in future audios.
On supporting duties this time around is John Schwab as the increasingly mysterious MacNeill, a figure whose relevance in the Doctor’s own future will only become clear in two months’ time come the final release of the range. Schwab isn’t given a wealth of content until the final sequences of the narrative, at which point the American voice actor comes into his own, presenting the listener with one of the most compelling and realistic portrayals of a secondary character yet in the Destiny series. Again, should Schwab be so inclined as to return beyond this isolated storyline, he’s sure to gain credits aplenty regardless of the role he is afforded by AudioGo and/or Big Finish in the future.
When all’s said and done, Night Of The Whisper isn’t completely devoid of blemishes. The momentum of Scott and Wright’s narrative falters at times during the action sequences, and in addition those characters Briggs is left to develop other than the TARDIS crew aren’t always as memorable as the main ensemble. This time, though, there’s such a plentiful amount of impressive content on offer for the listener that the experience can’t help but be a pleasure. The reprisal of the accuracy with which the production team are attempting to represent the various eras of Doctor Who is greatly refreshing, setting a high precedent for the final two Destiny Of The Doctor releases to match. With any luck, after the slight misstep of Enemy Aliens last month, Night Of The Whisper will have set us on a captivating path to be traversed in Death’s Deal and The Time Machine. Much as the Ninth Doctor era does tend to be reduced to its most memorable tropes and catchphrases, in this case it really is fair to say that the assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn’t stop this from being an utterly fantastic experience.