The Cosmic Hobo

Thoughts & reviews about the science fiction series Doctor Who.

Audio Review: Project Twilight

“Project: Twilight” (Big Finish #23)
Written by Cavan Scott & Mark Wright, directed by Gary Russell
Featuring the Doctor, Evelyn Smythe, and vampires

Rating: B

I’ve mentioned before in the Doctor Who podcast I co-host, The Raggedy Podcast, that Joss Whedon really has a lot to answer for. Since the introduction of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show in 1997, vampires seem to be consistently “in.” Every fantasy and science fiction story delves into the idea of vampires at one time or another, and with crap like Twilight and The Vampire Diaries releasing their various plagues on the entertainment world, it seems like the genre-spanning trope is here to stay.

Doctor Who has ventured into vampire territory several times, including on television (Fourth Doctor story “State of Decay,” new Series Five’s “The Vampires of Venice”), novels (Virgin New Adventures Blood Harvest, Paul Cornell’s Missing Adventure Goth Opera, Eighth Doctor Adventures Vampire Science and The Eight Doctors), and as of “Project: Twilight,” the audios as well. These various stories have been met varying receptions, but I think generally Doctor Who has managed to handle vampires pretty well.

The Doctor and Evelyn Smythe (a far superior companion to either of Colin Baker’s television sidekicks) find themselves in southeast London, on the bank of the river Thames, looking for a good Chinese takeout place. Some kind of inhuman stalker is killing a bunch of locals in the nearby streets, and the Doctor realizes something strange is going on when the bodies appear to be not only mutilated, but eaten.

“Project: Twilight” is a really brilliantly paced story; the way the first part is written, I was very quickly engaged in how the story was rolling. I knew right away that vampires were involved, and it took the Doctor and friends the first half of the story to figure it out, but I really enjoyed the ride, despite getting a little irritated that it took the Doctor so long to figure it out.

I think some of the performances in this story are particularly strong, even from the supporting cast. The bad guys are clearly bad guys from square one, but I don’t think Doctor Who has ever been really known for ambiguity in its villainy. Maggie Stables is awesome as Evelyn Smythe; it really makes me wish Colin Baker had been allowed to actually have a decent companion on screen. This isn’t an awe-inspiring story, but I really enjoyed it anyway.

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10 thoughts on “Audio Review: Project Twilight

  1. I hated this more than any other audio. It has way too much violence in it. I felt sickened by all the descriptions of blood, gore and torture.

    I’m definitely not listening to this one again.

  2. I have to agree with Matthew on this one. The violence of Reggie was so obscene that it turned me away. The only saving grace on that end is that Evelyn obstinately refused to be intimidated by him (of course she stupidly leaves the wounded Cassie to be tortured by him). I quite like how the Doctor and Evelyn refuse to stoop to the level of the villains, but they were far too brutally written in my opinion.

    • I haven’t seen “State of Decay,” but I think realistically speaking, vampires wouldn’t be the type to hold back. The novels and audios are here for the sake of adults– the only reason there wouldn’t have been particularly gruesome aspects in “State of Decay” is that the television series was intended to an audience of children AND adults, whereas I would argue the audios are more geared towards hardcore Whovians who are a bit older.

      I think the obscenity of the violence is what makes them good villains– As a simple vampire that takes a bite out of a neck and barely leaves more than a couple pin prick size holes isn’t nearly as scary as one that disembowels and eats you. A visceral reaction means that the villain is actually effective.

      • Ehhh… you need to see State of Decay. Vampires are a lot of things. In Bram Stoker’s book they are one thing, in Nosferatu another, in the Universal films another and in the Twilight books… we don’t really want to go there. They are what you make of them is what I’m getting at. This story and State of Decay share that common ground in that they involve the authors making something of the Vampire myth. For the record, I’m not sure you’d even like State of Decay.

        I’m more than happy to discuss the validity of an author’s actions to incur a visceral reaction, but I don’t think that was the intention here. As Matthew pointed out in his review, it’s not the depiction of vampires, but the behavior of Reggie, a reference to Reggie Cray of the infamous Cray twins (you’d probably like the film) rather than an extension of the mythical vampire. He’s a gangster sadist first, vampire second.

        I’m all for villains that get a gut reaction, like in the Hammer Horror films for instance, but this was just too amateurish in my opinion. I think that the author just wanted to shock the listener more than develop a more defined villain.

        There’s a pretty broad line between gruesome violence and excessive sadism and Project Twilight jauntily crosses it. The scene where Reggie is left alone with Cassie goes on for ages and is essentially just him torturing her and her crying. It wasn’t necessary, and it’s not very adult either.

        The audios are indeed intended for adults, but those adults are drawn to the classic program for a more sophisticated adventure story rather than slasher fiction. The Virgin books tended to wallow in that kind of thing and it got boring fast.

        I don’t mean to belabor my point, though. I mean, opinions differ, so what can you do?

    • Just because I am 30 years old does not mean that I want to listen to descriptions of torture!

      I think I am more senstive to the issue of violence than most Whovians. My personal feeling is that on some occasions, the show went to far in pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable in terms of violence on childrens’ t.v.

      The writers of Project Twilight seem to have dropped any boundaries at all describing scenes of violence. Oddly, though they don’t have any swearing. It seems odd to on the one hand try to make things really adult with excessive violence (without warning), while at the same time making it apparently acceptable for younger listeners by not having any bad language.

      • I think scary monsters should be pretty fucked up. That’s just a personal preference. I find most Doctor Who villains completely un-inspired, and having a reaction like this to me is a good sign that he is being threatening enough. I think most of the best villains in any media tend to be pretty intense, such as Heath Ledger’s version of The Joker in The Dark Knight and Hannibal Lector from The Silence of the Lambs. I haven’t seen any violence in Doctor Who yet that I thought was even close to over the top, though obviously I haven’t seen everything yet. I don’t think the amount of violence in “Project: Twilight” would be good for the show, but in the audio when you don’t see the blood and guts the sound gets the reaction that less violence may have visually.

      • What villains in classic Doctor Who do you find most impressive? And which one’s particular disappoint you?

      • I generally think the major recurring villains are pretty cool– it’s the one off villains that I generally find pretty weak, like the two villains in “The Sun Makers,” the machines in “The War Machines,” the robot in “Robot.” I’m not really a fan of the Daleks, either; I think “Remembrance of the Daleks” is one of the best serials in the show’s history, but the only other Dalek story I REALLY like is “Genesis of the Daleks.”

        I think my favorite recurring villain in Doctor Who is probably the Cybermen. The first Doctor I really started to love was Troughton’s Second, and obviously he goes up against them more than anybody else. I think the idea that the Cybermen are real people that have been changed into those men is really creepy; they have a similar fascist element to the Daleks, but the Cybermen are more about turning good people bad.

        I also like the Silurians because of their depth; Silurians are just another race, they’re not painted in a wide brush as being bad or good. I appreciate science fiction in which all of the aliens aren’t depicted as villains and all of the humans aren’t depicted as heroes. I like the Master, but pretty much only the Roger Delgado version.

        I like villains for different reasons– some try to do different things than others, but I like my horror-style villains to be pretty vicious, such as wolf men, vampires, that sort of thing. I don’t particularly think that Doctor Who has the greatest of villains. Of any group of villains, I think Batman’s rogues gallery from the comic books is my favorite.

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