Short Trips King of the Dead reviewed

the king of the dead coverMay 2015 brought us the Monthly Short Trips story King of the Dead. Narrated by Sarah Sutton, this half hour piece is the first release to have been written by Producers’ Assistant Ian Atkins. It is a Fifth Doctor story with Nyssa and Tegan as companions.

So far these short tales have been interesting and worth the small investment; does this continue the trend?

The story

The set-up, as explained on the Big Finish product page, is concise:

When the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan arrive in 1980s London, they find the current hot ticket is The King of the Dead, an interactive theatre experience they’ve inadvertently become part of. The Doctor settles into his usual role – trying to save the day after discovering an alien presence – but it’s Nyssa who finds herself dealing with someone who is working from a different script entirely…

The TARDIS arrives in the middle of an interactive theatre, and the whole story is set in this single location, though large building it is. There is plenty going on with actors, crew and invited audience. In the midst of this the Doctor detects alien interference.

While the Doctor is off exploring, both Tegan and Nyssa have plenty to do and discover the central plot revolves around the concepts of grief, loss and revenge. This brings a powerful depth to the ending of the story up there with any study of the characters involved. For a short tale, simply performed by one reader, this is a very good piece of entertainment.

The storytelling

Having grown used to Sarah Sutton’s young and old Nyssa, for me the joy of this release was her performance of Tegan. In terms of narrative, both Tegan and Nyssa get central roles in this story — one has specific knowledge of the set-up, the other has a personal perspective on the torments the antagonist is suffering. The person with least to do in terms of resolving the plot is the Doctor himself, and this is a nice slant.

I believe this is Ian’s first piece that has been released (please correct me if not) and I hope it isn’t the last.

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