Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Bernice Summerfield: The Poison Seas

Introducing traditional ‘monsters’ into Series 4 to attract Doctor Who fans over into this mini-range is a pretty shameless piece of advertising, however for the most part it seems to have worked. The first two plays of the series are very strong releases, taking the strengths of their respective monsters and using them to their advantage to tell a completely ‘new’ story. Sadly, on this third release, things start to stumble.

The Sea Devils have often been described as an ‘iconic’ monster of Doctor Who, and yes they are. They are famous for the image of Sea Devils emerging from the ocean and climbing up the beach towards land. They are less famous for their voices which are a strained, almost inaudible mix of gasps and protracted whispers. Having one Sea Devil in a conversation is tenable but the very nature of this play has scenes of dialogue where every character has to put on the voice. It makes the audio a challenge to listen to at the least. In fact congratulations are in order for the actors for putting their best into it and actually having a go; it is at least a good attempt at a bad job.

Which is a shame because there’s not actually a bad story beneath all the voice distortion. Braxiatel’s influence seems to be everywhere these days and once again Bernice finds herself away from home (and Peter) and on a dangerous mission to stop a terrorist attack. Unfortunately, despite being fully aware that an attack is imminent and sharing a room with the woman she ‘knows’ is planning the attack, she doesn’t do anything about it until the bomb has practically already gone off. The proactive Benny of the old days this isn’t.

To make matters worse one of the few characters not playing a Sea Devil seems oddly stilted, although when the backstory is explained the blunt attitude of wannabe terrorist Joanne Carver was a good fit. Here though, where we’re depending on her to counterbalance the difficult Sea Devil voice, it does not make a good fit.

Whilst all of that is going on something strange seems to be going on in the water. In parts this thread of the story complements the first half, as the theme here seems to be about the concept of ‘home’, with one character remarking no one gets to ‘choose’ their homes. It all fits in quite nicely with the climax of the Mirror Effect, with Bernice attempts to settle down and find security for herself and Peter. That paralleled with the plight of the Sea Devils, banished from their own home and now stuck in an ocean they can’t even swim in, works nicely.

It all culminates with a deliciously, if camp, over the top villain. That itself though causes problems, as to try and portray his villainy effectively Principal Lurnix drops the throaty Sea Devil voice and reverts to human, and somehow none of the other Sea Devils notice this. Although it certainly is a treat to the listener’s ears, it is a glaring plot hole.

The Poison Seas is a decent story gone awry by a crap voice for the monster. In part that’s down to the very choice of using the Sea Devils in the first place, but despite that inherent flaw a good attempt has been made at building an original story around them.

6 / 10

No comments: