Year of the Pig reviewed

Year of the Pig coverMatthew Sweet wrote the December 2006 main range release Year of the Pig, Sixth Doctor and Peri story. Apart from the intriguing title we have a great cast including Maureen o’Brien as Miss Alice Bultitude, Michael Keating as Inspector Chardalot and Paul Brooke as Toby the Sapient Pig of the title. The cast is rounded out nicely with Adjoa Andoh (Martha Jones’s mother from the TV series) as Nurse Albertine. So far, so strange but how good is the story.

The story

We shall allow the Big Finish product page the courtesy of setting our scene…

Ostend, 1913. War is coming. A war in which millions will die. And the guest in suite 139 of the Hotel Palace Thermae knows it. Which is odd, considering he has trotters, a snout and a lovely curly tail.

Toby the Sapient Pig is a swine on the run. Two peculiar strangers have been hunting him across Europe. The first, Miss Alice Bultitude, is an Englishwoman and collector of obscure theatrical ephemera. The second, Inspector Alphonse Chardalot, is a celebrated member of the detective police – the man who brought the trunk murderess of St Germain to justice.

This was supposed to be a reading week for the Doctor and Peri. Now they must do battle with a villain who wants to wipe every last human from the face of the earth – once he’s had just another dish of truffles. And maybe a valedictory glass of fizzy lemonade.

Toby wants nothing more than to be left alone in his hotel room and eat. Apart from, maybe, borrowing a time machine to put history back on track and get rid of the human race. The Doctor and Peri want peace and quiet and the wonderfully named Miss Bultitude wants to meet her idol Toby. In the midst of this comes Inspector Chardalot who is keen to get to Toby and has access to technology beyond this time. Why, though, does he so want to get to Toby, which of them knows the truth and just how will the Doctor survive the ticking time bomb?

Short of spoiling the whole piece all I can say further is that this is a curious mix of action, contemplation and snacking into which drifts Marcel Proust. Just listen to it!

The storytelling

The story drifts between surreal through mad and into poignant. The Doctor and Peri play everything completely straight – no surprise, no condemning just genuine interest in helping out. This gives a platform for everyone else to shine.

[pullquote]He’s a pig[/pullquote]

Maureen o’Brien is a fan besotted with Toby  though essentially harmless. Michael Keating gets to show far more range than his part as Vila normally allows and on a normal day this would be the stand-out part. This is not a normal play, this is the story of a sapient pig and Paul Brooke is magnificent in the part. Toby is a serious and slightly frightened figure whose every speech ends with exhortations for food. He’s a pig – why not?

The whole story is wonderful with hidden secrets, family grief and delusions abounding. It also manages to be a great story with no alien invasions, collapses of the vortex or other epic ideas. I love it. This is a great piece of entertainment that I thoroughly recommend.

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