‘THE CHIMES OF MIDNIGHT’
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A Christmas Adventure with the Eighth Doctor and Charley
I love ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ with Paul McGann and India Fisher!
This ‘Doctor Who’ audio adventure by Big Finish has a proper Christmassy feel to it. It’s the second story of the second season of ‘Doctor Who’ audio adventures starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and India Fisher as Charley Pollard. This became an award-winning success and is loved by fans.
It’s amazing this Big Finish audio adventure became a winner! ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ is a four-part adventure by Robert Shearman. He would go on to write ‘Dalek’ in the new ‘Doctor Who’ series. It was great to hear one of Rob’s earliest and most successful ‘Doctor Who’ works before he did the TV series.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Rob Shearman at the ‘Regenerations 2011’ convention in Swansea, September 2011. It was great to meet him and I enjoyed sharing how much I enjoyed the ‘Doctor Who’ stories he wrote, including ‘Dalek’. That was my first ‘Doctor Who’ TV experience back in 2005! Honest! 😀
I was surprised to learn during the Big Finish panel at the ‘Regenerations 2011’ convention that Rob felt he’d done a bad job writing ‘The Chimes of Midnight’. He thought it would never work as an audio production for ‘Doctor Who’. I purchased the story on CD after that convention and heard it for myself.
It was during Christmas 2011 when I heard ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ for the first time. Good timing! I don’t know what Rob was complaining about during that Big Finish panel since I enjoyed the story when I heard it. It turned out to be a cracking good adventure and it deserves the success it’s received.
‘The Chimes of Midnight’ also happens to be Paul McGann’s favourite ‘Doctor Who’ adventure as well as India Fisher’s. I’ve met Paul McGann at conventions over the years and asked him to sign my CD cover for ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ at the ‘Cardiff Film and Comic Con’, March 2014. I’m happy he did!
Paul was delighted when I asked him to sign my CD cover of the story for me. He declared “Chimes of Midnight!” out loud before saying he ‘loved it’ in his Liverpudlian accent. 😀 I’ve also had the CD cover signed by writer Robert Shearman at ‘Big Finish Day 6’, Slough, January 2015. Very happy about that! 🙂
So what’s ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ about? Well, the story has the TARDIS materialising in a dark and mysterious Edwardian house. The year is 1906. Or is it? The Doctor and Charley step out to find themselves caught in some mystery where time doesn’t seem to flow as smoothly as they’re used to.
The grandfather clock chimes at the stroke of midnight and someone gets murdered. The Doctor and Charley become the investigators of this strange murder mystery as they ask questions to the staff of the Edwardian house about the person who got killed. The staff give very strange and varying answers.
But something very sinister lurks in the house that the Doctor and Charley are in and they soon discover they can’t escape. They also discover that the house is alive somehow and is caught in a paradox of time. This also connects to Charley’s past in a personal way regarding the scullery maid who gets killed.
I like the Christmassy feel featured in this story by Rob Shearman. It feels eerie and atmospheric especially when the clock starts chiming and someone screams at the end, bringing an almost a mock-gothic sense about it. There’s also has the feel of an Agatha Christie whodunit type of murder mystery.
This is especially when the Doctor and Charley are investigating the mystery and some of the guest characters are acting pretty weird. Sometimes they serve to provide the story’s comic relief. Sometimes they serve to add to the darkness featured throughout this tale, making it so eerily spooky.
The comedy and horror aspects of the story blend well together. The story’s twist regarding who the enemy is and that it turned out to be Edward Grove as the house took me by surprise. It was one I didn’t expect, especially once the ‘Part Three’ cliff-hanger came about. It was quite scary and gripping.
Paul McGann is brilliant as the Doctor in this audio adventure. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it’s a shame he never did any more TV stories since his debut appearance in the ‘Doctor Who’ TV movie. In the audios, Paul is able to prove his worth and enthusiasm as the Doctor, especially for this adventure.
The Eighth Doctor is well-written by Rob Shearman. I like how Paul’s Doctor interacts with Charley throughout. The Doctor’s rising panic and sense of knowing something’s wrong was gripping to listen to. I also like how the Doctor confronts the enemy at the end of the story and how he manages to win here.
India Fisher is equally brilliant as Charley Pollard, the Doctor’s companion. India works well with Paul McGann and I like how the two bounce off each other in their character relationships as the Doctor and Charley. I love how it’s just the two of them working out what’s going on in the story’s first episode.
This is before they meet the other characters. I could feel the energy of these two and Charley is a perfect companion for the Eighth Doctor, full of adventure and enthusiasm. I like how Charley gets to do her own investigating whilst the Doctor’s elsewhere, whether it’s with Mrs. Baddeley or with Edith.
The story’s guest cast are equally good. There’s Louise Rolfe as Edith, the scullery maid. She’s the first one to get killed in the story. She’s often neglected and very disgracefully by the rest of the house staff. It was a surprise revelation once it turned out that Edith knew Charley as a little girl in…1930 (?!)
Lennox Greaves guest stars as Shaughnessy, the house butler of Edward Grove. Shaughnessy picks on Edith whenever she’s not doing her job properly and calls her ‘nothing’. Interesting to note that Shaughnessy’s name was derived from Alfred Shaughnessy, the script editor for ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’.
Sue Wallace (who is Lennox Greaves’ real-life wife and later worked with him in ‘Seasons of Fear’ and ‘The Whispering Forest’) guest stars as Mrs Baddeley, the house cook who makes plum pudding. It seems “Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Mrs. Baddeley’s plum pudding”. I didn’t know that. 😀
Robert Curbishley guest stars as Frederick, the chauffeur who works at the house and might be having an affair with Mary. Juliet Warner guest stars as Mary, the maidservant who becomes the scullery maid after Edith’s death and might be having an affair with Frederick. Can this love affair be saved? 😀
There is a sense of ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ about this story, especially concerning the characters and the setting where we’re in the kitchens and the lower levels. The Doctor and Charley aren’t even allowed to go upstairs to see the master of the house. It almost makes the tale theatrical in some way.
This story even predates the tone of ‘Downton Abbey’. This is especially in the way the house staff mistreat Edith and say that she’s ‘nobody’ and that they’re ‘nothing’. It brings a sense of weirdness to the characters. You’re not very sure what’s going on and what it’s all about in terms of the atmosphere.
There’s also the concern for Charley and where she’s at in her journey with the Doctor. I like the references made to Charley’s previous stories, significantly her first one ‘Storm Warning’ where she met the Eighth Doctor. The web of time gets mentioned again – a theme in these Eighth Doctor audios.
Charley was supposed to die on the R101 airship featured in ‘Storm Warning’. But the Doctor defied the laws of time and allowed Charley to travel with him. Charley’s connection to Edith the scullery maid gets unravelled here especially as the tale progressed. It really took me by surprise as it went on.
I like the story’s music composed by Russell Stone and the sound design by Andy Hardwicke. They create an atmospheric Christmassy style to this adventure. It got more Christmassy when Edith sang and hummed ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ which I liked hearing in ‘Part One’ as well as in ‘Part Four’. 😀
The CD extras are as follows. At the end of Disc 2, there’s a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘Excelis Rising’, the second story of ‘The Excelis Trilogy’, with Colin Baker.
For the purposes of this review, I listened to ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ via its limited vinyl release which was released in September 2016. I enjoyed listening to the story again on its vinyl release. It was interesting to hear the story in that format, especially after hearing ‘Spare Parts’ in a similar format. 🙂
Like with ‘Spare Parts’, I didn’t need to have ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ on vinyl. But because I purchased the ‘Spare Parts’ vinyl beforehand, I asked “Why not?” It was a ‘Doctor Who’ release after all. I wanted to satisfy my curiosity in comparing ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ vinyl to the ‘Spare Parts’ one.
Once again, it was a pretty intriguing and surreal experience to hear this classic audio adventure by Big Finish. The audio was remastered for vinyl and it was gripping to hear the eerie, spooky sounds of the tale and its atmosphere, especially with the grandfather clock ticking and chiming before midnight.
It’s no surprise that both ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ and ‘Spare Parts’ were chosen to be re-released for a limited amount on vinyl by Big Finish. They’re both classic ‘Doctor Who’ audio adventures and it’s amazing how highly rated they are by the fans that they do deserve to have these vinyl re-releases.
It’s also fitting that Paul McGann and India Fisher got to have one of their ‘Doctor Who’ stories as the Eighth Doctor and Charley to be re-released for vinyl, just as much as the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa had one of their tales re-released for vinyl. The Eighth Doctor and Charley are a really popular TARDIS duo.
As stated, the story was originally released as a four-part adventure on a 2-disc CD set. Like with the ‘Spare Parts’ vinyl, ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ was re-released on 4 vinyl discs, making it a six-part tale on the first three discs instead of a four-part tale. It was so interesting to hear the story in that manner.
Disc 4 of the vinyl edition of ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ is a documentary disc looking into the behind-the-scenes making of the story. On Side A of Disc 4, there are interviews with director Barnaby Edwards; producer Gary Russell; writer Robert Shearman; executive producer Nicholas Briggs; etc.
It was interesting to hear these people share their thoughts on the making of ‘The Chimes of Midnight’. Side B of Disc 4 features interviews with music composer Russell Stone as well as sound designer Andy Hardwick. We also get to hear writer Rob Shearman giving a tour of the Victorian house he lived in. 😀
That Victorian house was what gave Rob Shearman the inspiration to write ‘The Chimes of Midnight’, which I found very interesting. I was disappointed that Paul McGann and India Fisher weren’t interviewed in the documentary for the story. It would’ve been nice to hear their thoughts on the tale.
If Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton were interviewed for the ‘Spare Parts’ vinyl, why weren’t Paul and India interviewed for ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ vinyl? Maybe it was unavailability on Paul and India’s part. I’m happy this was made up for in the ‘Spare Parts’ vinyl with Peter and Sarah interviewed.
It was unnerving to hear the stories shared by Russell Stone and Andy Hardwick as they talked about making this story at the time the 9/11 incident happened in 2001. Otherwise, I enjoyed ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ vinyl edition and I’m happy I got to listen to it in time for this review before Christmas 2019.
I would like to hear ‘The Chimes of Midnight’ and ‘Spare Parts’ vinyl releases every Christmas now. If you have a vinyl record player yourself, I highly recommend listening to these two adventures over Christmas. They’re worth listening to and are considered to be very highly rated by ‘Doctor Who’ fans.
‘The Chimes of Midnight’ is a great audio adventure with the Eighth Doctor and Charley. It deserves the high praise it has from the fans. It’s a spooky, atmospheric Christmassy adventure with unique quality. The story won an award in ‘Doctor Who Magazine’ and it was voted as the Best Audio of 2002.
I’m sure Rob Shearman was chuffed to have won that award, despite his initial doubts about it. I’m glad it’s a favourite of Paul McGann and India Fisher’s as it’s a favourite of mine. I’m glad I’ve had my CD cover for the story signed by Paul at a convention and I highly recommended it for Christmas shopping.
Just remember not to eat too much plum pudding when you hear it! 😀
‘The Chimes of Midnight’ rating – 9/10
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