- aquaphobia n. An abnormal fear of water, or drowning.
- blattodephobia n. The morbid fear of cockroaches.
- catoptrophobia n. Fear of mirrors, or seeing one’s own reflection.
There’s a whole ABC of horrors at Bluefire House – as four young people, drawn together to this tumbledown hotel at the edge of nowhere, are about to discover. But whatever the ancient and foul thing that has emerged from the wilderness to drag them here, speaking of it will only strengthen it. The Doctor alone knows what lurks at the heart of Bluefire House. But the monster of his childhood dreams is coming. The Mi’en Kalarash is coming … Just this once, the Doctor’s afraid.
“Procedure is just another word for procrastination”
The trio of new solo adventures featuring the Seventh Doctor concludes with this spooky tale by Mark Morris that will inevitably be compared with such major Gothic-tinged Who outings as Marc Platt’s Ghost Light and Robert Shearman’s The Chimes of Midnight. The first episode begins with a reliable standby when four travelers arrive at a large and remote old hotel, none of whom can remember their names or how they got there. Are they ghosts in limbo on their way to the hereafter, subjects in an experiment gone awry, are they all mental patients suffering from shared delusions, or ..?
Met by the butler Soames (the ever-excellent Timothy West), they are provided with food and accommodation but little else – with memories seemingly permanently blocked, they are reduced to referring to each other by their respective room numbers. As they prowl the premises, the geography seems increasingly unlikely and unstable, with a mysterious tower apparently inaccessible even though it is clear that there is someone or something up there. The four strangers (Amy Pemberton as number 18, Miranda Keeling as 5, Ray Emmet Brown as 16 and Howard Gossington as No 12) are however united by one thing that they do have in common – their phobias.
“I tend to find that cutting a few corners invariably results in a more interesting journey.” – The Doctor
The first episode is all about getting to know the four young visitors with the Doctor only appearing right at the end in time to make a grand entrance from the mysterious old lift. Events take a much more sinister turn in part 2 as the visitors are forced to confront their phobias in some pretty creepy manifestations, most memorable of which is a bizarre sequence featuring a tsunami in a garden maze!
Without wishing to indulge in major spoilers, this proves to the third release in a row from Big Finish in which the characters are immersed in a virtual reality landscape. I don’t know how intentional this was and I certainly hope the next release follows a different track, but it should be said that of the three this is probably the best one, albeit also the one that most resembles the movie Inception; this is emphasised especially in a sequence in which the main characters all awaken to find themselves on an aircraft. Just like the preceding Doomsday Quatrain and ‘A Most Excellent Match’ from the Recorded Time anthology, this is also another consecutive release that has a major gear shift at the halfway mark, though given the nightmarish quality of the tale it doesn’t come as too great a surprise that the surroundings are not at all what they at first appear. The two-part structure in fact works quite well, the familiar chills and spills of a Gothic horror giving way to a SF variant with the Doctor and the guests fighting a foe from the Doctor’s own dark past as he is forced to face his own repressed fears.
This is a pretty satisfying tale overall with a solid beginning, middle and end, well produced as always, with a hint of a possible new companion intriguingly added to the mix too (as well as an unexplained reference to a black TARDIS in the extras that is sightly fudged in the release itself …). It is let down a little though by some arch and even clumsy dialogue at times and it has to be said that the supporting roles tend to veer towards stock characters, although because the first half deals with some very specific ‘old dark house’ genre archetypes this may have had a more ironic intent than was immediately apparent. Certainly not on par with last year’s Klein trilogy perhaps, but a highly entertain group of releases none the less – and the Seventh Doctor on his own is always an occasion to cherish.