Phil Mulryne has written an excellent Fourth Doctor Adventure released today, titled The Haunting of Malkin Place. It’s a Fourth Doctor / Romana II story set predominantly in Kent, though not exclusively.
It’s a spooky tale, with ghosts, mysterious sounds and the obligatory séance. Of course there’s more to it than that, and it’s a great story of rationalism versus belief in the supernatural. Being careful of spoilers (and the story is wider than I will reveal), let’s pop down to Kent, sometime in the early twentieth century…
The Big Finish product page reveals this, but no more:
Whilst on the way to visit the birthplace of MR James, a chance encounter with a spiritualist on a train sends the Doctor and Romana on the trail of a ghost. It’s the most convincing case of haunting he’s ever heard of, he tells them. And so, on their arrival, does it appear to be.
Things go bump in the night at Malkin Place. The voice of a crying child. Birds bursting into flight. Strange movements in a seance.
The Doctor is determined there must be a rational explanation. But is science always the answer to everything?
The spiritualist in question is Mr Talbot, played by Simon Jones. As a massive fan of The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, I loved this immediately once I recognised Simon’s voice. The tension between the Doctor and Talbot drives a lot of the story, with plenty of science vs belief, and this entertains until the arrival at Malkin Place. Here live Maurice (Gunnar Cuathery) and Beatrice (Fiona Sheehan) and the eccentric Mr Mountford (a wonderful performance by Denise Black).
The evidence of a malign presence rises and a séance is held, which neither proves nor disproves the case for spiritualism. With out modern stance we see everything through the lens of science or alien tech; Phil Mulryne is clever in making everything also support the idea of ghosts and spirits, keeping both sides happy.
There’s a deeper story, and one I won’t spoil except to say it centres on Maurice. Here Phil’s writing also needs to be applauded. It would have been easy to write a story where the Doctor and Romana visit a strange house, encounter spooky happenings, explore and resolve. By adding the character of Talbot, we ground events in a secondary lead character of that time, able to respond to events with a perspective the Doctor cannot have.
It ends with a bitter-sweet, yet oh so plausible resolution. Another great story from Phil Mulryne, with much to recommend.