Smoke and Mirrors reviewed


May 1st brought us the Fifth Doctor story Smoke and Mirrors; this is in the Destiny of the Doctor series and is performed by Janet Fielding as Tegan supported by Tim Beckmann.

So far I have been pleased with all of these stories and my perception is that most people have enjoyed them as well. How then did I find this latest addition to the range? Find out and watch out for  some spoilers!

The Story

The Big Finish product page tells us:

The Doctor answers a psionic distress call being sent from England in the 1920s. There, in the environs of a fairground, he is reunited with an old friend: Harry Houdini. To Adric and Nyssa the name means very little, but to the Doctor’s companion Tegan he is a legend. Escape artist extraordinaire, Houdini’s reputation will last for decades.

But how come Harry knows so much about Tegan herself? Is it really just guesswork, as he says? Is Harry right to be concerned about the fairground’s fortune teller, who claims to have supernatural skills? Both he and the Doctor suspect an alien influence they know of old.

What neither the Doctor nor his friends realise is that, somewhere in the shadows, a far more sinister and familiar presence is lying in wait for them…

The story starts at a fun fair where the Doctor meets up with old friend Harry Houdini. Houdini wants help debunking a mystic and the Doctor indulges in a spot of break in and entry which results in the discovery of an alien artefact the Ophid Sphere [spelling may vary] which enhances psychic powers. We start to spot Houdini acting strangely and before much longer the companions have one by one been caught and either brainwashed (Nyssa for a change) or generally threatened with death. Meanwhile the Doctor ends up padlocked in a crate and thrown into th sea!

It turns out that a certain mind-controlling Time Lord (The Master) is at the core events and the companions help the Doctor turn the tables and save the day! Of course the sphere can’t be destroyed as a certain bow-tie wearing future incarnation had asked for it to be salvaged.

The Story Telling

Janet does a good job with this and her narrative voice is quite different form her Tegan. She has fun with Nyssa, Adric and the Doctor and the whole piece moves along well.

Looking back I realise that Steve Lyons has written many of my favourite stories for Big Finish and does well with this. There are some minor grumbles – Nyssa again mind-controlled and how can Houdini summon the Doctor so well? These are more than out-weighed by the quality of the writing and the strain that the relationship between the Doctor and Houdini is subjected to.

In my mind Houdini has become something of a phantom at the feast and it is nice to have him introduced and have reference back to past adventures. The choice of Tegan as narrator gives a nice angle on this with her companion being somewhat impressed at meeting the escape artist though this doesn’t interfere with the narrative.

Overall a decent job.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed this but didn’t feel it took me anywhere new. Maybe I just want to find out what the Eleventh Doctor wants with all these pieces he is collecting. It certainly hasn’t let the side down and my ambivalence may be part-driven by not having watched much of this particular line-up when it was on TV.

Enough of my thoughts – what do you think? Is this a (fun) fair review or have I become tied-up in minutiae?

Let me know!

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