Tuesday 31 May 2016

4th Doctor 5.5 - Gallery Of Ghouls

Waxworks are odd things – I really don’t see the attraction. Facsimiles of the great and the good (and sometimes the feral and the foul) cast in wax and placed in an exhibition for the paying public to look at and take photographs with, it just seems a bit bizarre to me. But as actual objects, Waxworks are an excellent Horror Story device – the too shiny skin, the too perfect hair & teeth, the slightly too piercing eyes – there is something wrongabout them. Like a really excellent cover version of a song you enjoy, its not quite right and slightly unnerving. Look at the use of Waxworks in Pertwee’s debut Spearhead from Space or the numerous Horror films of the 1950’s and 1960’s like House of Wax and its ilk. Creepy, unnerving, WRONG.
 Which brings me on to this months 4th Doctor release, and in case you were wondering it does feature a Waxworks. In fact it features two.
The Fourth Doctor (more by luck than judgement) has brought Romana II to Brighton in 1833 – its only 18 years until the Pavilion opens so he decides to wait. On a deckchair. On the beach. For 18 Years – yes indeed dear readers, we are in gloriously silly Season 17 territory – and whilst the Doctor works out how to put up a deckchair for his 18 year wait, Romana decides on a grand tour of Europe visiting the great and the good of the era. That is until on her way from the beach she discovers Madame Tissot’s Waxworks Exposition and persuades the Doctor to accompany her to visit it.
 Madam Tissot (Celia Imrie) owns Brighton’s premiere Waxworks Exposition – she is expecting a Royal Visit from  the King’s sister tomorrow. Surely nothing can go wrong. Surely the arrival of the Fourth Doctor and Romana will not hail mayhem and disaster and a bizarre series of events????
 What follows is a series of bizarre events involving mayhem, disaster, the theft of the head of Waxwork Marie Antoinette, the introduction of rival Waxworks owner Mr Goole (Nickolas Grace) the delightfully named “Goole’s Gallery” and the revelation that The Doctor has a diploma in firefighting awarded to him by “Pugh, Pugh, Barney, McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub” – (surely worth the entry fee in its own right?)
 Tom is on fire delivering some of the best “silly Tom” lines – marvel at his lecture from the diorama of the death of Nelson at Madam Tissot’s Exposition, Thrill to his prepared final speech where he leaves his stamp collection to Romana and marvel at how he messes with the air conditioning in the TARDIS at a very important moment. All pure Tom gold.
Lalla Ward has the haughty Romana 2 off to a tee – she does not suffer fools at all, let alone gladly, which makes you wonder why she is with the zany Fourth Doctor at all!
 This story is very much a pastiche of the waxworks horror sub genre of horror – but unlike the Hinchcliffe era stories that took (and take) themselves very seriously, this one is delightfully silly and played for its comedy while still containing a very exciting plot. This, like the Season 17 that inspired it is more about larger than life characters and actors “giving a turn” and being allowed to chew the scenery – and long may it continue.
 Full of fruity acting, wonderful dialogue and a plot that whilst taking a back seat to the performances it inspires is edge of seat stuff this is the best 4th Doctor release so far this year and can proudly sit alongside The Horns of Nimon & The Creature From the Pit in Season 17. A fun and fruity  9/10.

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