So this one is a little late. I took a four day weekend to Chicago with my fiancé via Amtrak. I’d write a review of the train trip, but I kind of get the feeling Newt would be unhappy with the amount of profanity I would use. Suffice it to say, the trip did give me ample opportunity to come up with my next review, so I will try to look on the bright side.
So here it is, a little bit different from the usual DVD review, but one I think many of the readers on this site might find useful.
Doctor Who: Hornet’s Nest
Starring Tom Baker and Richard Franklin
If you’re an American Doctor Who fan like me, chances are you’re very aware of how little awareness there is about the show here in America. And if you are a classic fan like me you’re also aware that what little merchandise is made available is predominantly related to the new series. Most of us have to settle for the odd DVD release or eBay purchased figure (seriously, I need to know where Newt gets his hookup!) So it’s not really a big surprise if you’ve never heard of the Doctor Who audio plays before.
Here’s the deal. After Doc Who went off the air, fans were desperate to get their Who fix any way they could. Not satisfied with Terrance Dick’s novelizations and bootleg VHS, many of them clamored for brand new Who material until the BBC finally relented by authorizing a series of audio plays featuring classic Doctors doing the voices, along with old companions and new characters as well.
And it took off. Oh boy, did it take off. Now practically every single person even slightly related to Doctor Who has gotten their own audio series. The most prominent Docs are Peter Davidson and Colin Baker, with Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann taking up second. I’ve download a lot of them, and honestly most of them are fairly entertaining, and really a good way to keep amused on long car (or train :/ ) rides.
But while fans loved these plays, and appreciated the involvement of the classic actors, there has always been a desire to get one more Doctor in on the action: Tom Baker.
4th doctor and Who icon, now nearly in his 80’s, and very much opposed to doing anything Doctor Who related since his departure from the show. For years fans have wanted him to do these plays, and for years he resisted, until now!
The result is, well, yeah.
Before I go any further I need to recap what the story is on these plays. An ageing Mike Yates ( ask your parents kids 😉 ) discovers an odd add in the local paper that seems to be addressed to him. Upon answer the add, he discovers 4th doctor Tom Baker has taken up residence in a bizarre cottage called The Nest, which is full of taxidermied animals infested with space hornets that come to life at night as part of a plan to take over the Doctor’s mind and then take over the world! And he has a housekeeper called Mrs. Wibbsey.
Confused? Yep, it gets worse. The Doctor has been traveling backwards in time on short side trips to the past, where he battles the hornets in reverse order, eventually discovering their master plan.
I won’t give away how it ends, but it involves a zebra, a paper brain, and a ballet slipper full of jelly.
So, what’s the deal?
I’ll break this down in three parts
Do you know who Mike Yates is? No? Then you’re going to be confused. Have you seen all of the Tom Baker episodes of Doctor Who? No? Then you’re going to be confused. Have you read and understood the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and found it to be a clear and understandable book? No? Then you’re going to get lost in this plot line too.
The story is a ramble that relies heavily on your own understanding of a lot of Doctor Who lore and back story to really understand the references that both Yates and the Doctor make. Those who are not big fans of this era, or this Doctor, will be constantly perplexed and confused by a lot of what is being said, and a lot of the humor and pathos will be lost.
Let’s say that, like me, you understand everything about classic Who, and Tom Baker, and even Mike Yates. Let’s say you’re very well versed in the rambling nature of Doctor Who stories, and used to improbable occurrences and ridiculous situations. You still are going to be perplexed by this story.
I listen to all 5 hours, twice, and I still can’t figure most of it out. There are plot holes and logic leaps everywhere, with little to no solid answers. I honestly feel I could have written a better story in about 10 minutes.
And the packaging is a pain too. This is a 5 CD set, with each CD in their own jewel case crammed inside a box so tight I had to open both ends and literally shove the cd’s out. Of course I quickly uploaded them onto my ipod so I did not have to lug all 5 around with me, but still, it kind of irritates me that so little thought was put into a set that cost around 45 dollars! That’s right, 45 dollars for this baby. Pretty pricy for something that you’ll probably only listen to once.
At this point you’re probably thinking: “Dear god this sound horrible. Thank you Rob for saving me from this terrible purchase.” Well don’t thank me yet. I wanted to end this on a high note, and I think I will. You see, I’m a Tom Baker nerd, and if I was to take a shot in the dark I would say that more than a few of the people who frequent this site are Baker fans as well. If you are, then this CD is definitely worth a listen to. Why? 3 reasons
1. It fits: If you watched a lot of Tom Baker then you already know how his stories work. Confusing plotline and ridiculous logic leaps are all part of the game. Have you seen Meglos? This play is better. Have you seen The Deadly Assassin? This is better. Have you seen The Creature from the Pit? This is not better, but then, nothing ever will be better 😉
2. It’s fun: After you’re done listening to these cds it will be easy to sit there and tear apart the plot, and point out the logic flaws, but while you’re listening to it it is very hard not to get swept away with the action and the fun. I pressed play, shut my eyes, and was amazed that the five hours this took to listen to literally vanished in no time. It loses some of this feeling on a second listen, but it’s darn entertaining the first time through
3. It’s TOM BAKER! I am a huge 4th doctor fan (and I have the 12 ft scarf to prove it) so it was really amazing to get to hear a new adventure starring him. Even at 77 Baker’s voice is strong and clear, and his mind is just a sharp as it was 40 years ago. His words are quick and expressive, and you can almost hear that twinkle in his eye when he goes off on a particularly twisted turn of phrase. Let’s be honest, Baker has one of those voices that is so entertaining on its own you probably wouldn’t mind listening to him read the phonebook for an hour or two.
So, should you buy it?
Here’s the deal, I am freely admitting I have a huge Tom Baker bias. I am infinitely amused by just about everything this guy does as Doctor Who, and I will always pick up as much merchandise of his as I can. That’s being said, unless you are a huge Baker fan like me I cannot recommend you pick this up, especially at the full 45 bucks I paid. And even if you are a big Baker fan, I would still only encourage you to pick it up used instead. It’s amusing, and fun, but just not worth the cover price.
Quick note: a follow-up audio series was just released.
Mine is in the mail.