Of December 2019’s two main range Doctor Who releases, Paul Magrs’s The Muse of Fire is far and away the most quirky. The idea of the Seventh Doctor, Ace, Hex, Iris Wildthyme, Panda and others might seem a lot for any story to handle, but rest assured Paul Magrs is up to his highest standards in The Muse of Fire. You want more? Well, chuck, journey with me to 1920s Paris…
Meeting the Muse
The synopsis gives away nothing:
Oooh la la! It’s been a long time coming, but the Doctor is about to be reunited with Iris Wildthyme! They’re both in 1920s Paris and everyone’s flocking to Iris’s salon.
But wait…! What’s that noise..? Thud thud thud…! It’s the soft, approaching feet of a small and acerbic Art Critic Panda…!
The Doctor, Ace and Hex are in Paris, but things are not as the should be. As they wander the city they meet would-be poet Kevin Archer and his wife Isabel, as Kevin trips on the steps to the Metro, and is rescued by the one Dora Muse (not that there’s a hint in the name!). As Ace and the Doctor explore, they realise all the great artists have left the city, there’s a bookshop with a great mystery and a critic with more influence than he should have. Meanwhile Ace comes to the attention of Iris and the crowd at her salon.
Paul Magrs takes his time bringing the key players together, weaving some nice tension between Ace and Hex, as well as introducing Panda, who it is fair to say doesn’t hit it off well with Ace. As the Doctor sets out to save Paris from Iris, we the listener realise he is his own worst enemy but not before many delightful scenes and a quick visit to the Number 22 bus!
It all ends relatively well, though the emotional distance between Ace and the Doctor is yet another rift that will need working through. Overall the story treads a line between being a Doctor story with Iris and an Iris story with the Doctor. Either way it’s a joy to listen to. If Ace is a little limited in scope, mostly not getting on with Panda, Hex is more complex and has a touch of his occasional role as peacemaker. It’s great to have Hex back in what feels like an early run story in his timeline, and it has be said Katy Manning is as splendid as ever as Iris. Full marks to Jamie Anderson’s direction, David Benson’s Panda and really everyone. Gethin Anthony (Game of Thrones) plays Kevin, a man driven by forces he can’t control to a tee, and it’s a shame the story didn’t allow more time for everyone to shine,
Really it’s full marks to all involved