‘CASTLE OF FEAR’
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Welcome To Stockbridge
Well…what can I say about ‘Castle of Fear’?
I really enjoyed this audio story as I found it very amusing. Of course, I had to listen to this a number of times in order to get my head around some of the terminology that was used in the Middle Ages.
This is a four-part story by Alan Barnes. It is the first of ‘The Stockbridge Trilogy’ and it stars Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor and Sarah Sutton as Nyssa. I had all three stories of ‘The Stockbridge Trilogy’ for Christmas 2009. I was so excited about this new trilogy with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa.
I’ve had the CD cover of ‘Castle of Fear’ signed by Peter Davison at the ‘Regenerations 2016’ convention in Swansea, September 2016 and the lovely Sarah Sutton at the ‘London Film and Comic Con’ in July 2011. Sarah is absolutely brilliant in this story and it happens to be one of her favourites. She told me that she listened to this in the car and enjoyed working with John Sessions.
This Big Finish audio trilogy is set in a special place in ‘Doctor Who’ from comic book land called Stockbridge. I never read any of the Fifth Doctor comic book adventures before this trilogy. But it didn’t matter, as this trilogy featured the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa. That was enough for me to enjoy it.
‘Castle of Fear’ sets ‘The Stockbridge Trilogy’ off to a good start and it certainly feels like a special Christmas offering. The Doctor and Nyssa attend a Boxing Day gathering at the Green Dragon Inn in 1899. They watch a mummer’s play being performed there with St. George fighting the fiery Dragon.
The mummer’s play happens to feature a certain ‘doctor’ in a white coat and with a stick of celery on his lapel. As you can guess, this concerns the Doctor greatly and it isn’t before long that he and Nyssa are whisked off back in time to the ‘measly’ Middle Ages at Stockbridge Castle to solve the mystery.
This story is filled with doses of drama and comedy from the likes of ‘Monty Python’ and ‘Blackadder’. This is evident in the performances of some of the guest stars in this audio, who are outrageously funny and over-the-top. It did make me think ‘wait a minute, this can’t be happening!’
John Sessions guest stars as Roland of Britanny who is outrageously funny. He plays a Normandy Knight with a bad French accent and a cruel streak in him. As the story goes, Roland claims to be a famous knight declaring glory and honour on his noble quest. But Roland isn’t what he seems to be.
Joe Thomas (from ‘The Inbetweeners’) guest stars as Hubert, Earl of Mommerset and was such a delight to listen to. Hubert returns to Stockbridge Castle to claim his inheritance. But he isn’t who he seems to be either. His upper class manners make the comedy work and Joe has good comic timing.
Susan Brown (from ‘Torchwood: Children of Earth’) guest stars as Maud the Withered and gives a really extraordinarily funny performance. I liked her scenes with the Doctor when she helps him out of the boar trap and into the castle underground. It’s a shame that she got killed in ‘Part Two’ of this story.
When it is revealed who the ‘demons’ of Stockbridge Castle are, it took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting it and it was before I had seen ‘Horror of Fang Rock’ on DVD on New Year’s Day 2010. The demons turn out to be the Rutans, enemies of the Sontarans. It was so great to hear them on audio!
Sarah Sutton as Nyssa is definitely the highlight for me. She does so much as Nyssa when she gets separated from the Doctor. It was nice to hear Nyssa have a sense of humour in this story. That’s not to say she didn’t have one before. I liked those moments when she laughs and finds things amusing.
I liked it when Nyssa stands up to Roland of Brittany on his principles about being a ‘mercenary’. I liked that beautiful line of hers when she says, “I’d rather be a peasant than a mercenary”. It demonstrates Nyssa’s compassionate and caring nature well, especially when she befriends Osbert.
Nyssa gets clever in ‘Part Four’. She fooled me and the Doctor when it seemed that the Rutans had killed her off and she was one of them. I liked it when Nyssa saves the day from the Rutans in the end and she solves the riddle of the mummer’s play connecting to the events of Stockbridge Castle.
Nyssa has visited Stockbridge before, as she was in the village in the present day and had a love affair with Andrew in ‘Circular Time: Autumn’, which is my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ audio. I’m pleased the connection was made to Nyssa’s past in ‘Castle of Fear’ and the rest of ‘The Stockbridge Trilogy’.
Peter Davison is fantastic as the Doctor in this audio drama. He’s one out of three of my favourite Doctors (the others are Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant). Peter’s energy shines throughout here. It fuels his Doctor’s character as he gets determined to solve the mystery of Stockbridge Castle.
The Doctor is reluctant to take part in events at first when the 1899 mummer’s play is performed since it features a certain ‘doctor’ in it. It makes the comedy work well when that happens. The Doctor’s fondness for Nyssa stands out in this story and it’s clear that she’s his favourite companion.
This is a great beginning to a fantastic trilogy of stories with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa. ‘Castle of Fear’ is one of my favourite stories as it is one of Sarah Sutton’s favourites too. I enjoyed the comedy in this audio drama and I greatly enjoyed Sarah Sutton’s Nyssa who stands out very well for me here.
‘Castle of Fear’ ends on a cliff-hanger in which the Doctor and Nyssa are trapped inside the Rutan ship and it explodes. I wondered what was going to happen next to the Doctor and Nyssa. I immediately put Disc 1 of the next story of the trilogy in my CD player after I enjoyed ‘Castle of Fear’.
The CD extras are as follows. At the end of Disc 1, there are ‘behind-the-scenes’ interviews with the cast and crew including Peter Davison; Sarah Sutton; writer Alan Barnes; director Barnaby Edwards, etc. I love the comments made by Peter and Sarah about these audios developing their characters.
At the end of Disc 2, there’s the eighth episode of ‘The Three Companions’. I enjoyed this mini-episode starring Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier; Anneke Wills as Polly and John Pickard as Thomas Brewster. ‘The Three Companions’ is now complete in ‘The Companion Chronicles Specials’.
If you subscribe to Big Finish for ‘Castle of Fear’ via a 6 or 12 CD/Download subscription, you’ll get the following extras. There is a PDF script and extended extras of ‘Castle of Fear’.
There is also a trailer for the next story with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa in ‘The Stockbridge Trilogy’ called ‘The Eternal Summer’.
‘Castle of Fear’ rating – 10/10
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