Audio Review: The Chimes of Midnight
Audio plays as a medium for Doctor Who are generally at their best when they take best advantage of the way they are telling their story. Horror as a genre is the perfect area for Doctor Who in audio form to dabble in because horror as a genre in any medium is always more scary when you can’t see what you’re being afraid of. When it is left up to your imagination to generate the evil, it is much more affecting. By virtue of audio being just audio, you’re forced to imagine the scary parts in your head, which is actually a positive for the medium in this case rather than a negative.
The Doctor and Charley find themselves in a house that is experiencing a strange sort of time dilation. People who apparently die seem to vanish from everyone’s collective memory, while likewise everything seems connected in a strange and incomprehensible way. The Doctor is particularly confused in this one, and it all starts with a mysterious message in dust from a time passed, or yet to come.
I’ve previously enjoyed the Eighth Doctor in audio form (and in the TV movie, for that matter), but this is really the first excellent audio from his era. After the godawful “Invaders from Mars”, I was so pleased to see that things managed to pick up right away. Both Paul McGann and India Fisher are frankly fantastic in this audio, who are helped in no small part by really excellent writing and solid direction. I’ve never actually been scared by anything in horror, much less Doctor Who horror, but I would say that “The Chimes of Midnight” came closer to it than even television stories like “Blink” that are outstanding but didn’t manage to scare me.
Aside from brilliant acting and perfect atmosphere, one of the things that I think made this audio play better than the rest is that there are actually characters here that are worth liking. There is a subplot involving Charley and one of the workers at the old house that is pretty heartbreaking, with India Fisher totally knocking it out of the park. I feel like I have less interesting things to say when a story succeeds on every level, but audios like this are the reason I am such a fan of Big Finish. If I were to try to convert someone to the audios I would have to pick either this or “Spare Parts”. Being that it was written by the guy responsible for the first actually good episode of the new series (“Dalek”), I expected something at least solid, but I adored it.