‘The Second Oldest Question’ (ST/Audio)


Please feel free to comment on my review.

The Chicken Got to the Other Side with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa

This story is by Carrie Thompson and is read by Sarah Sutton. It features the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa.

I’m happy and excited when news comes of another ‘Doctor Who’ Short Trip audio by Big Finish featuring Sarah Sutton. I always enjoy them with Sarah reading and performing the Short Trip audios she does. At the time of this review, another Short Trip audio read by Sarah is coming in July 2020. 🙂

I enjoyed ‘The Second Oldest Question’ very much. Sarah reads and performs it very well. I listened to this tale about four times and I got to say it’s one of the most unusual, bizarre yet satisfying Short Trip audios I’ve listened to. It even permits Sarah to provide a variety of voices for certain characters.

The writer Carrie Thompson is new to Big Finish. I’ve not come across Carrie as a writer in other mediums, but I can tell from hearing this Short Trip audio that she’s very imaginative in her writing. She’s also pretty witty and provides some enjoyably juicy character dialogue and story descriptions in this.

In this Short Trip adventure, the Doctor and Nyssa become involved in a trial. The trial takes place outside in the pouring rain (people are going to get colds 😀 ) in the medieval village of Snittlegarth on the 28th of September 1357. The defendant on trial is…a chicken. Yeah! A chicken is put on trial!

The chicken is charged with crimes of arson and civil unrest. That has got to be the most bizarre version of a trial scene since…since General Melchett unfairly condemned Blackadder for shooting a pigeon in the ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ episode ‘Corporal Punishment’. I mean, that’s utterly weird!!!

(sighs; looks off-screen) Don’t you think so, Cuddles?

Cuddles: (nods) “Yes it is! It is. It’s weird. I don’t get it.”

(scoffs) Cuddles is normal isn’t he? 😀

I know how bizarre the concept is and even the Doctor takes the matter seriously with defending the chicken because…he can speak chicken too? Yeah if he can speak baby, why not chicken? It also makes it all ‘Blackadder’ atmosphere like ‘Castle of Fear’. But somehow, it all seemed to make sense. 🙂

The story’s title has the Doctor answering ‘the second oldest question’ in the universe…which seems to be a thing. We had ‘the oldest question’ in the universe answered in the Matt Smith era which was…‘Doctor who’? So why not have ‘the second oldest question’ in the universe getting answered.

‘The second oldest question’ happens to be…‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ Well, I would’ve thought the answer was obvious: ‘To get to the other side.’ Seriously, I learnt that joke since the days of school. But it seems it isn’t the case according to the Doctor as during the trial…um, spoilers!

Sarah Sutton is excellent as the reader of the story. I enjoyed how Nyssa reacts to the chicken being put on trial and finding the whole thing ridiculous. I would agree with her on that point. This is especially when the village yokels of Snittlegarth take the case seriously putting the chicken on trial.

I loved the voices Sarah provided for characters like Bennett the priest who prosecutes against the chicken; Rowlf who is the prosecution for the witness and Toby Snipe who Nyssa stands with in the mob during the trial. Sarah also does the voice for the judge who keeps shouting “ORDER! ORDER!!!”

I couldn’t help think of speaker John Bercow during the Brexit debates when Sarah did the voice for the judge in this story. HOW COME I MENTIONING BREXIT IN A ‘DOCTOR WHO’ REVIEW?! I wonder if that’s what Sarah had in mind when she was doing the voice for the judge in the ‘Doctor Who’ story.

I found Sarah’s voice for priest Bennett very funny. Honestly, the way Sarah spoke as Bennett was very amusing especially when he was laying accusations against the chicken on trial in the story. It’s one of the pleasures of this story with Sarah being the reader as it genuinely gave me a few laughs. 🙂

I enjoyed Rowlf’s character and how he was revealed during the trial being the witness for the prosecution. It was funny when he started coughing before speaking the trial. Sarah made Rowlf sound like an old man with a bad cough, even though he’s meant to be a younger man from the planet Augury 23.

The scenes where Nyssa speaks to Toby Snipe were enjoyable. Toby is rather disgusting in eating an apple during the rain-drenched, muddy trial and I enjoyed Nyssa’s reactions to him. The voice Sarah gives to Toby sounds pretty good with an interesting accent and dialect to make him seem common.

‘The Second Oldest Question’ has been a delightful Short Trip audio to listen to with Sarah Sutton as the reader. Like with ‘The Mistpuddle Murders’, I heard this story more than once in order to get over some of the complexities of the tale and also to make sure I hadn’t missed anything out on this.

I won’t reveal how the trial is resolved and how the Doctor answers the ‘second oldest question’ regarding the chicken during the trial. It was interesting how it gets resolved and I hope to hear this Short Trip audio again with all the other Sarah Sutton-read ones I’ve heard. They’ve all been a treat.

I’m currently looking forward to the next Short Trip audio with Sarah Sutton called ‘Downward Spiral’.

‘The Second Oldest Question’ rating – 9/10

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