REVIEW: Doctor Who – The Chimes of Midnight (2002)

A Big Finish Audio Drama from Big Finish (#29 of the main line)

There’s nothing like a Doctor Who horror tale to really make me think of Christmas! For a long time The Christmas Doctor Who episode/special has been something I look forward to every year – shame they have been happening less and less now. While not marketed as a special in any way, and only vaguely being Christmas related, I’d rank this with any of the big TV events for it’s quality.

Doctor Who The Chimes of Midnight is an audio drama that I’ve previously listened to, but it was honestly something like a decade ago when I used to listen to them while walking to work each day and my brain can only retain so much. I roughly remember the plot, but knew that a re-listen was in the cards when it came time to doing reviews. looking at my notes, I think I dropped off somewhere around Zagreus when I first plowed through a bunch of these, so I’m not too far from completely new territory. I remembered liking this chapter, as I do with any of the Eighth Doctor stories, and not a whole lot else. Let’s see if my hazy opinion still holds up.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house not a creature was stirring… But something must be stirring. Something hidden in the shadows. Something which kills the servants of an old Edwardian mansion in the most brutal and macabre manner possible. Exactly on the chiming of the hour, every hour, as the grandfather clock ticks on towards midnight. Trapped and afraid, the Doctor and Charley are forced to play detective to murders with no motive, where the victims don’t stay dead. Time is running out. And time itself might well be the killer…

Publisher’s description

This story continues the theme of Charley being destined to die in the R101 airship crash, but by not being dead, keeps creating weird paradoxes and time disruptions wherever she goes. While I don’t feel the exact explanation for the emergence of the villain of this episode was properly explained, what we do get is understandable and makes sense with some minor hand-waiving. It seems that, much like the Stone Tape Theory, time can do weird things when something big or traumatic happens in a place. In this case, an old house gains sentience due to a suicide only to be brought to supervillain levels simply because the paradox of a dead person not being dead anymore sets foot into said house. In many ways it reminds me of some of the stuff that occasionally happened in Moffatt Doctor Who where one would just have sit back and accept it.

The biggest highlight of this serial, for me, was something surprising this time around – the sound design. Here it was pretty awesome – filled with moody music that has one foot in Christmas cheer, and the other in dreary sadness. Moreso than some previous chapters in the Big Finish “Main Line”, these Eighth Doctor Adventures (EDA’s to borrow a term fans use from the book line) feel more like TV episodes than others. Some episodes have small issues like weird echoes, zany accents, or weird mistakes, but this is a big jump in quality, in my honest opinion of course.

These EDAs are always great – I’ve listened to a few more past this point in the past, and I truly loved what I consumed. Having no TV canon to go off of, or having the freedom to honestly do whatever they want makes them more free and ambitious in many ways. I think my only real problem with the story was addressed above – I honestly would have referred a straight mystery story over a high concept villain that is hard to pull off in audio form. I could see some folks may not understand what is happening if they are passive listeners. That said, I still loved it, and can’t wait to see where this storyline eventually goes and hope I get a chance to actually keep going this time!

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