Thursday, June 2, 2011

What's Up, Doc?

As you dear, loyal reader know, I’ve listened to a fair few Big Finish audios over the last few years, but I’d never actually listened to any of the Beeb’s audio-books until “The Hounds of Artemis” came along. I’ll fess up, I got it free. Pixies love free stuff although, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I do draw the line at free Touchwood. I am fond of Matt Smith’s interpretation of the Doctor, so I was more than willing to give this a go, seeing as its read by him and Clare Corbett (who’s done some other audio book stuff with Tom Baker). I’m not quite sure why they didn’t get Karen Gillan in to help out, but Ms Corbett does a very good job in her stead.

Make no mistake, this is a good old rip-roaring period adventure involving archaeologists, aliens and ancient curses. There’s even a loving nod to “Pyramids of Mars” at the beginning, showing that writer James Goss knows his stuff. The narrative has been very sensibly divided between the two actors, Smith (obviously) reading from the Doctor’s point of view with Corbett filling in much of the detail via a series of Amy’s diary entries. I did wonder at one point if Smith would only be reading the first chapter or so as Corbett does make up most of the running. To be honest, this is actually a blessing in some ways, for as good as Smith is as the Doctor, his impersonation of Karen Gillan’s accent is pure Sylvester McCoy with a not-so-helpful dollop of Jamie on top. It’s all very hilarious in a frightening sort of way, but does detract from the story at times. Still, when he’s not strangling the Scottish vernacular, Smith is most definitely enjoying himself immensely. In fact, that would be my only criticism of this CD; Smith is a bit too rushed and over-enthusiastic in his reading at times, and really could have done with the director slowing him down a touch when dealing with the exposition sections. Other than that it’s a good production, set up very much like an actual episode, including the obligatory pre-credit sequence.

I say only criticism; I’d need to check with our lovely Emilly Ladybird about 1929 corset construction, but I’m fairly certain they weren’t made the way the author thinks they were. Seriously, its just common-or-garden wire in there is it and no stays? Okay, it makes for a light-hearted solution to a plot problem, but I’d still like to know exactly how the Doctor gets all the wire out of Amy’s corset without completely defrocking her…

This is not a long piece by any means; at about 70 minutes it comes in around the same length as one of the TV specials, so is just long enough to let the story develop without making it too long for younger listeners. James Goss has taken what could have been a real pot-boiler and given it a sparkling sense of humour with some beautifully observed lines. He has captured the main characters extremely well; even though it isn’t Gillan playing Amy, you can still hear that it is the same character (although Corbett’s Doctor impersonation is almost as challenging as Smith’s Pond).

So if you’ve listened to all of your Big Finishes and still need your audio Who fix, I’d definitely recommend “The Hounds of Artemis” to while away the time until the next episode.


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