Sunday, 20 September 2015

4th Doctor 4.6 - The Cloisters Of Terror

“The same but different”; it was how I thought of Doctor Who when it came back in 2005. I loved it with RTD in charge. 10 years on, well, hmmm… Capaldi is wonderful, but the episodes lack a little something to make them feel as special as they used to. Trying to recapture the magic of a bygone era is a difficult balancing act; you don’t want to be a pastiche or a tribute act, but you can’t be so different that you are nothing like the era you are trying to recapture.
Series 4 of the Fourth Doctor Adventures has reminded me of series 8 of the TV series in so much as it hasn’t quite hit the spot for me – brilliant leading man, sublime companion, well written stories but lacking a certain something in a few of the stories. Maybe they were just TOO different from the era they are representing. Actually yes, that what it is, apart from The Darkness of Glass, the stories just have not screamed LATE ERA HINCHCLIFFE! to me in a way the previous pairings of Tom and Louise have, maybe they have been a little too experimental. Luckily The Cloisters of Terror has come along and restored my faith in the series and if you want to find out why dear reader, then read on.
St Matilda’s College, in Oxford, is a woman only college with a strange history; there is a legend that if you see the ghostly “Three Sisters” that they will come and take you away. When a young student tells her friend she has seen them and then disappears, the Dean of the College, Emily Shaw calls in the Police – but gets more than she bargained for when her call is intercepted by The Doctor and Leela. Wow, what a story! This feels just like Who did in late Season 14, dark, gothic, frightening, engaging – everything a Tom Baker story should be – and of course it features Tom Baker! Half way between his serious earlier persona and his madcap later persona, Tom’s commanding presence booms and quips his way through the story. The Dean of the college is Dame Emily Shaw – Mother of past companion Elizabeth Shaw and is aware of The Doctor and UNIT. There is a long standing mystery to solve here, girls have been going missing for almost a millennium…
How are the Nuns of the convent involved? Is the kidnap of the girls for the greater good? Can Leela do a Lancashire accent? All these questions and many more are posed and answered in the story.
It’s a triumph of a production – it’s not the best Who story ever, but it is so well done it really does feel like an audio recording of a 1970’s episode. There is a creepy, doom laden atmosphere, possession, treachery and a 1000 year old secret. Can I at this point make my monthly “we are not worthy” comment on Louise Jameson – she is incredible in this one, such a visual performance, when she answers one of the girls in a Lancashire accent it’s funny but it is also a considered study of Leela’s thought processes; she has never heard the word before, it is spoken to her in a Lancashire accent so why wouldn’t Leela pronounce it in this way – it’s little touches like this that make Louise a cut above and one of the best actresses to have graced Doctor Who.
So a Fourth Doctor Adventure that ticks all the boxes – acting, plot, sound, atmosphere. But at the same time its not a tribute act, its just a very well written story. Yes some of the plot devices are cliched, the ending may be predictable, but it really does give you the 1970’s Saturday teatime glow.
This one definitely is not a terror. 9/10.