‘SERPENT IN THE SILVER MASK’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Murder Mystery on Argentia with the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Adric
If you fancy a light-hearted, enjoyable murder mystery of ‘Doctor Who’, then this is the one for you!
‘Serpent In The Silver Mask’ is the third story in the 2018 Fifth Doctor trilogy of audio stories by Big Finish. I’ve enjoyed this audio trilogy of ‘Doctor Who’ for my birthday in May 2018. It features my favourite TARDIS team of the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric from Season 19 of the classic series.
All the three stories of the 2018 Fifth Doctor trilogy by Big Finish have been pretty good and enjoyable. Each story has been unique in their own way. It was nice to finish this trilogy on a light-hearted note. I listened to the third audio story of this trilogy a day before I went away to Folkestone.
That was for the ‘Folkestone Film, TV and Comic Con’ where I saw Sarah Sutton, Peter Davison and Janet Fielding for my birthday weekend in May 2018. I couldn’t have been happier, as it was exciting to see my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ stars after I listened to the three Big Finish audios for my birthday.
‘Serpent In The Silver Mask’ is by David Llewellyn. This is the first time I believe that David Llewellyn has written for the Fifth Doctor TARDIS team from Season 19 of ‘Doctor Who’. David has written a number of ‘Doctor Who’ stories both in books and in audio for the BBC as well as for Big Finish itself.
This story he’s written for the Fifth Doctor TARDIS team has been an enjoyable romp of an adventure. It has our four TARDIS heroes digging into solving a murder mystery aboard a city-like space station called Argentia. It happens to be the galaxy’s most exclusive tax haven. Low taxes!!! 😀
The Doctor is trying to collect some special crystals on Argentia before he and his friends are attending the funeral of one mining magnate, Carlo Mazzini. All of the Mazzini family are there and want a fair share of the inheritance left by the late Carlo Mazzini. But it’s not pretty straightforward.
Apart from having music and light refreshments after the funeral, there is also murder. A silver masked killer is on the loose and soon the Doctor, Nyssa, Tegan and Adric have to find out what’s going on. Will they stop the killings and find out who wants all the Mazzini family inheritance in this?
This story has an atmosphere of an Agatha Christie/Sherlock Holmes style of an adventure on a space station. I’ve written ‘The Space Hotel’ too! 😀 Now to be fair, this story isn’t anything like ‘The Space Hotel’ and it turns out to be a pretty engaging murder mystery for our main leads to tackle in.
I felt I could relate to this story because of me writing ‘The Space Hotel’ with the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Billy. There aren’t lots of jokes featured throughout and this isn’t a bonkers extravaganza. If you’ve seen a lot of TV and film adaptations of Agatha Christie’s works, you will get the atmosphere.
Apparently the inspiration for this story came from the film, ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’, which was made in 1949. Now I’ve never seen that film, so I can’t make a comparison. But you don’t need to. What’s important is how this audio drama stands as a ‘Doctor Who’ story overall and whether it works.
And quite honestly, it does stand well as a ‘Doctor Who’ story overall. Murder mysteries have been done in ‘Doctor Who’ before and there are some with light-hearted tones in them. I like how this story doesn’t overplay the light-heartedness and the sinister edge is balanced well throughout here.
I also like as you listen to this story, you wonder who the actual murderer might be. In true Agatha Christie style, you become convinced it is one particular person and you’re caught off caught as the actual murderer is someone you didn’t expect. That’s what I like and it works well in this adventure.
I’ve had the CD covers of ‘Kingdom of Lies’, ‘Ghost Walk’ and ‘Serpent In The Silver Mask’ signed by Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding at the ‘Folkestone Film, TV and Comic Con’ in May 2018. It’s surreal to think I would see these three stars at Folkestone after listening to this audio tale.
This story features another great guest cast throughout. There’s Samuel West who plays all of the Mazzini Family. WOW!!! I know that Samuel West is a great actor, but I didn’t expect him to be so multi-talented and doing a variety of voices for this audio adventure. It is mind-boggling to consider.
Again, this story of course is inspired by the ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’ film where one actor is playing a multitude of characters of the same family. In this story, Samuel plays Angelo; Francesco; Maria; Peter; Paul and Joe of the Mazzini family. He also plays the Killer, who I won’t reveal in this review.
Samuel West is the son of Timothy West and Prunella Scales in real life. I’ve seen Samuel West play King Caspian in the BBC version of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’. It was amazing to hear him play so many characters. He happens to be a Fifth Doctor era fan as well. 😀
There’s also Phil Cornwell as Superintendent Galgo. If you don’t know who Phil Cornwell is, he played a stallholder in the ‘Doctor Who’ episode, ‘The Fires of Pompeii’ with David Tennant. Here he plays a Killoran Chief of Police who is tough and shows no nonsense when dealing with a murder mystery.
Galgo also happens to be half dog and half human in effect. I wouldn’t have registered that listening to this audio drama, but still. Phil Cornwell also plays Zaleb 5, who happens to be a robot administrator aboard Argentia. Zaleb 5 gives out a lot of adverts which can be grating on the ears. 😀
And there’s Sophie Winkleman as Sofia, who was secretary to the late Carlo Mazzini. She seems to be a mild-mannered sort of person, especially when she’s reading Carlo Mazzini’s will to the family and when she’s looking after some sort of painting that the Doctor get so curious about in the story.
But as the story progresses, it turns out Sofia isn’t sweet and innocent as she seems. She turns out to be an accomplice of the murderer in the story. That was quite a nice twist in the story, though I wonder if it would’ve been great if Sofia was the actual murderer. Will Sofia have her ‘just desserts’?
The best performances featured throughout this story as well as the 2018 audio trilogy of Fifth Doctor stories are of course from Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor; Sarah Sutton as Nyssa; Janet Fielding as Tegan and Matthew Waterhouse as Adric. I was captivated by the characters throughout.
Janet Fielding is great to listen to as Tegan in this adventure. It was nice that Tegan got a romantic story going on when she’s flirting with Joe Mazzini. The interaction between Janet Fielding as Tegan and Samuel West as Joe is wonderful to listen to as you’d wish they got together by the story’s end.
I hate to say this as well, but Tegan’s romance in ‘Serprent In The Silver Mask’ is better than the one Nyssa had in ‘Ghost Walk’. It ended on a satisfactory note! ARGH!!! How come Tegan gets a better romance than Nyssa does?! All I can say is…bring on my Fifth Doctor stories with Nyssa and Billy!!! 😀
Sarah Sutton is wonderful as Nyssa in this audio adventure. ‘Serpent In The Silver Mask’ is a story that appeals to Sarah’s tastes since she loves re-watching the Agatha Christie TV dramas like ‘Poriot’ and ‘Miss Marple’. I’ll need to chat to Sarah more about her favourite Agatha Christie TV dramas. 😀
Upon arrival on Argentia, Nyssa finds the place ‘horrible’ and ‘a tasteless person’s idea of luxury’. Tegan calls her a snob for it. I don’t what it is, but I’m flummoxed by that. What is it with writers in ‘Doctor Who’ that they seem to make Nyssa appear like a snob? This happened in the tale ‘Hexagora’ too.
I know it seems uncharacteristic for Nyssa to judge a place before being open-minded about it. But Nyssa’s initial impressions of Argentia being ‘horrible’ don’t make her act like a snob. I’m likely to judge a place by its external appearance before venturing inside it. I think Nyssa’s being honest here.
I like the interaction Nyssa shares with Joe Mazzini, as she comments that she’s noticed he and Tegan are being ‘very friendly’ to each other. Nyssa’s showing an interest in Tegan’s love life, being concerned for her friend. But I also like to think Nyssa wishes a love interest following ‘Ghost Walk’. 😀
Incidentally, when I saw Sarah Sutton at the ‘GEEKS Salisbury Comic Con’ in July 2017, she mentioned she had a cold before going into recording these audio dramas at Big Finish. From hearing these audio tales, I wouldn’t have noticed and had forgotten Sarah had a cold making these.
Matthew Waterhouse is very good as Adric in this adventure. He’s rather annoyed when he gets snubbed by Peter and Paul Mazzini during the music and light refreshments part after Carlo Mazzini’s funeral. Adric also gets to be investigative when he gets to crawl inside a ventilation shaft.
It was tense when Adric found himself in the dark before getting found by Superintendent Galgo. Adric also gets taken hostage by the killer who brings back aboard the ship with Sofia accompanying them. I do like how Adric taunts the killer and Sofia when the Doctor manages to outwit them in this.
Peter Davison is brilliant as the Doctor in this adventure. The Doctor gets curious about what’s going on with regard to the murder mystery. He makes connections with a monstrous creature and a certain strange painting, but it becomes his undoing once he gets arrested by Superintendent Galgo.
I enjoyed the scenes where the Doctor is thinking aloud in his prison cell and finds himself talking to his robot guard whom he calls ‘Bernard’. He manages to get out of his prison cell and saves Tegan, Nyssa, Adric and Superintendent Galgo from death when he materialises his TARDIS in a turbine hall.
‘Serpent In The Silver Mask’ has been an enjoyable audio adventure with the Fifth Doctor TARDIS team from Season 19. After hearing this story, I was looking forward to sharing my thoughts on the 2018 Fifth Doctor trilogy when seeing Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton and Janet Fielding in Folkestone.
The CD extras are as follows. On Disc 1, there is a suite of incidental music to enjoy. On Disc 2, there is a trailer for ‘The Helliax Rift’ with Peter Davison. There are also behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew, including Peter Davison, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding, Matthew Waterhouse, etc.
It was lovely to hear the four TARDIS regulars share such fondness for their characters and enjoying making the stories in the 2018 Fifth Doctor trilogy by Big Finish via the CD interviews. I’m lucky to have heard these stories with this Fifth Doctor TARDIS team and I hope there will be more to come.
If you subscribe to Big Finish for ‘Serpent In The Silver Mask’ via a 6 or 12 CD/Download subscription, you’ll get the following extras. There is a PDF script and extended extras of ‘Serpent In The Silver Mask’. There’s also a bonus Short Trip audio called ‘Mission Improbable’ with the Sixth Doctor, read by Stephen Critchlow.
‘Serpent In The Silver Mask’ rating – 8/10
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