Founder / editor: Alwyn Ash

10th Jan 2012

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Past Times Special: Serpent Crest #4 – The Hexford Invasion

Post Author: Ian McArdell

After the surreal adventures of Aladdin Time, with its fictional worlds Arabian Knights storytelling, the Serpent Crest saga comes back down to Earth in The Hexford Invasion.

Mrs Wibbsey, the Doctor’s housekeeper and sometime travelling companion, was left feeling somewhat abandoned at the end of the last adventure and has had many months to get used to the mundane rhythms of village life. In the Time Lord’s absence, and with time on her hands, she appears to have become increasingly paranoid. The focus of her attentions are the comings and goings of her recently arrived neighbour Tish Madoc, the deep-voiced literary sensation and cousin of village stalwart Deirdre ‘Whatsit’.

All this comes crashing to a halt in the height of summer with the arrival of Mike Yates, back in uniform once again and on special duties. UNIT have monitored strange goings on in the area and have dispatched one of their people to handle the situation, a scruffy little fellow who likes to be known as The Doctor.

“Hello my dear, I’m sure we’re going to get along famously.”

With Doctor Two’s arrival, Mrs Wibbsey’s paranoia increases further. She steadfastly refuses to accept this tramp like stranger as the Doctor and remains entirely suspicious of him, even to the point of her following him on his night-time excursions, planting dubious tree saplings on the outskirts of the village.

Plans to prepare Hexford for a coming alien invasion do not go to plan though, as the Doctor and Mike’s warnings are met with feint ridicule. That is, of course, until a large spaceship appears overhead and then a familiar character with a long scarf turns up in his ‘blue shed’.

I suppose very few readers to this article will find the presence of this other Doctor as news, with its announcement in Doctor Who Magazine. I must admit it came as a surprise to me, despite the teasing recorder on Anthony David Dry's colourful cover illustration that had sent my mind spuriously in the directions of both Omega and The Land of Fiction.

Despite one notable occasion in the television series, recasting a specific incarnation of the Doctor has never occurred, or indeed been required as the trick of the show, and key to its longevity has been the periodic recasting of the lead role. Although it’s something audio producers Big Finish have strayed away from, and indeed appeared to be resolutely against in their early years, the advent of the BBC’s successful audio-book translations of the Target novels seem to have made this a very organic move.

Asking David Troughton to reprise his father’s role appears to have happened very naturally and is an instant fit. From his first line I was hooked and happy to accept him. While some commentators might see this as a step too far, I am content to let David Troughton be the judge. If he finds the casting acceptable then who are we to disagree? Frankly, it is a joy to hear that wonderful character on the loose again with his recorder and making references to Yeti on the Bakerloo line!

“Oh dear. Has he never explained regeneration to you?”

For this tale, Susan Jameson takes on narrating duties as it is very much told from Mrs Wibbs’ point of view. She makes some wonderful allusions to cookery and the odd attempt at humour, but it’s her refusal to trust this ‘bogus’ Doctor that makes for a really interesting slant on the character. I sympathised with her longing for her Doctor to return and when he did, his outrage at the interference from his earlier self is wonderful stuff. As ever, Tom Baker clearly loves every moment of this and his enthusiasm shines through every line.

Paul Magrs has again created a quirky range of supporting characters to populate this modern day version of Hexford, which appears to be quite the rural backwater even for deepest, darkest Sussex. From the fussy Reverend Tonge (Cornelius Garrett) to the wonderfully nosey neighbour Deirdre ‘Whatsit’ (Nerys Hughes). Also, there is the decidedly untrustworthy Tish Madoc (Joanna Tope) who claims to know something of UNIT and extra-terrestrials...

“Oh crumbs! It’s all gone a little bit wrong!”

As destruction reigns all around, it seems that the two Doctors are working against each other rather than in concert. With a climatic and surprising finale, the stage is set for the final chapter Survivors in Space where there remain a good deal of questions to be answered…

Both the The Hexford Invasion and Survivors in Space are available either on CD from all the usual places, or on download from AudioGO from 8th December 2012.

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