Sunday, 20 September 2015

4th Doctor 4.2 - The Darkness Of Glass

Some things just feel right. The nail is hit squarely on the head, things come together and that something becomes bigger than the sum of its parts. For a lot of Doctor Who fans this describes the Hinchcliffe era, on the surface of it hammy Hammer rip offs, but containing a lot of disparate elements that made it so much better than it appeared on paper. Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Louise Jameson, Philip Hinchcliffe, Robert Holmes, and that manna from heaven, something that cannot be controlled, a very annoyed and morally outraged Mary Whitehouse giving the show lots of free publicity. Yes, in the Hinchcliffe era things just seemed to click into place, classic followed classic: Ark In Space, Genesis of the Daleks, Pyramids of Mars, Seeds of Doom, The Deadly Assassin, Robots of Death, Talons of Weng Chiang.  Then Hinchcliffe was replaced by Graham Williams and the quality fell… STOP RIGHT THERE!! STOP IT NOW!!! I think I was possessed by that terrible controlling spirit “received fan opinion” for a moment, let me come to my senses…..
Several minutes later I have performed an exorcism and come to my senses and normal Ed service has been resumed. Of course, Williams was every bit as good (in my opinion better) than Hinchcliffe, and the gothic stories didn’t go away – Fang Rock, Fendahl, Stones of Blood – the scope was bigger, the palate more varied, and it didn’t always work, but when it did, boy did it strike gold.
So back to this months release, The Darkness of Glass, it’s a Gothic story, it’s a supernatural story, it’s very Hammer, actually, its not, it’s very Amicus.  Where Hammer were very a cosy familiar troop, good old Peter Cushing & Christopher Lee – the Sid James & Bernie Bresslaw of Horror (and I mean that as a term of affection) – Amicus were far more disturbing, unpredictable and downright creepy, and his is exactly what The Darkness of Glass is.
It references Fang Rock, and is quite similar in many ways. The Doctor and Leela are trapped by a rising tide in a castle where a memorial is being held for the master of the magic lantern show, Mannering Caversham.  Caversham died a hundred years prior to the setting of the story in 1807 by blowing his own brains out to exorcise a demon – a myth, but in every myth there is some truth. 100 years later in 1907 – a group of his devotees are gathered to honour Caversham, and then, one by one, they begin to die, picked off by a mysterious unseen adversary.  Someone in the castle knows more than they are letting on; someone is there for a reason other than honouring Caversham; someone is there to bring back and try to harness the power Caversham died trying to stop.
Boy is this atmospheric, the cast are on top form! Tom & Louise give it there all and every one of the supporting cast are pitch perfect, playing upper class devotees of the art of the magic lantern. Special recognition must go to Sinead Keenan, an Irish actress who has the most incredible received pronunciation accent when in character as Mary Summersby.
I was completely captivated by the story, totally drawn in to the world and on the edge of my seat as the tension is ramped up and up. Tom is more like the grumpy Tom from the Hinchcliffe era, but there are a few ‘Williamsisms’ creeping, but they are not as blatant as in say The Romance of Crime.  And what can I say about Louise Jameson, effortless and utterly convincing – the delivery of her lines are just so visual. My only complaint that maybe it is a bit too short and the denouement is very quick, but the build up is just excellent.
Overall a bit of a classic, best Fourth Doctor Adventure (not counting the Gareth Roberts ones) since The Auntie Matter. 9/10.