Some stories have very clever plots but have no depth, some stories have depth without especially clever plots. A Death in the Family
, the October 2010 Seventh Doctor Doctor Who
audio play, is one of those rare stories that excels on both counts. It's not only one of the best Doctor Who
audio plays, it's one of the best Doctor Who
stories of any kind.
Written by Steven Hall, the story picks up from Project: Destiny
with the Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) hurrying back to the former headquarters of the Forge after the Doctor hears about a sarcophagous there that bears the seal of Rassilon, a symbol of an important figure in the history of the Doctor's people, the Time Lords. Inside, they find an older version of the Seventh Doctor apparently catatonic, mumbling confusing things over and over, including, "Nobody is coming." Soon they realise that Nobody is in fact Nobody No-one (Ian Reddington), the villain introduced in the 2008 audio play Word Lord
, also written by Steven Hall. As established in that story, Nobody is a Word Lord who gains power through words. In his case, whenever some says nobody or no-one can do something, like, "Nobody can breathe underwater," Nobody suddenly has that power. In the first story, this led to a complicated and surprisingly dark short tale. In A Death in the Family
, Hall crafts something that feels much like an episode of the new series while perfectly incorporating the Seventh Doctor's persona as a master game player.
There is such a wonderful, intricate dovetailing of concepts and character development in this story I don't want to spoil it too much. It's sort of breathtaking. The way Hall seeds evidence of a very complicated plan from the Doctor throughout the story, the fact that Hex (Philip Olivier) ends up on a world where the religion revolves around a story that has to be constantly told by someone who sacrifices their life to the job of telling it over and over, the fact that the Doctor has a really satisfying scene where Evelyn (Maggie Smythe) actually confronts him about his gameplaying after a scene that recalls the trick he played on the Daleks in the television story Remembrance of the Daleks
, all of this works in perfect concert, the fact that Nobody taunts the Doctor by calling him Columbo. And then there's Ace and her poor husband, Henry Noone (John Dorney), whom the Doctor may have chosen to weave into Ace's life just because his name happens to be spelled the same way as "No-one".
I won't say anymore. Just do yourself a favour and get it
. Listening to this story is like looking at all the perfectly constructed innards of a watch. Twitter Sonnet #971A wired pendulum engaged the gel.
The softest kind of plod upturned the flame.
A tapping dye could only so much tell.
The train goes by too fast to take a name.
A stubborn moon eclipsed the clouds for spite.
Or innocence, the rock ingests to puke.
The wood that warps enwraps the angry mite.
In shapeless rust, returns the loveless Duke.
A settling dust adopts the sucking shape.
A vivid room repeats its yellow hue.
Encouraged by the air, approached the ape.
The ether snaps and charts electric blue.
Nobody has the oldest night in mind.
The story's told again for you to find.