Thursday, 18 September 2014
REVIEW - DOCTOR WHO - MASK OF TRAGEDY (SPOILER-FREE)
Mask of Tragedy is probably one of the most unusual Big Finish stories I've heard in a long time. Written by James Goss, this title is all about the Doctor taking Ace and Hector back to ancient Athens to meet his good friend and play-writer Aristophanes.
The tale is unusual in not only the narrative format, but also the various sub-plots that are interwoven throughout the tale. There are quite a few believe me. Thankfully they are linked into the story without it feeling like a mash-up of poorly executed ideas. However, I will admit that the narrative style at first can be a little confusing. It's one of those exceptional McCoy stories (The House of Blue Fire, The Shadow Heart) where you only begin to understand what's really going on from episode two.
Nevertheless, it works! It manages to balance comedy and tragedy perfectly. Well, maybe not perfectly, but it's more of 'if you understand it as a comedy, the tragedy ends up complimenting it'. The reverse however isn't true. If you want it to be tragedy with comedy, then I believe you might end up finding the humor jarring at times.
One thing that might also put some fans off is just how much the script lets the characters ham up their scenes. Literally every character ends up milking at least one of their scenes. Ace in particular takes it up to eleven. Unfortunately, most of the time she comes across as annoying because she hams up just about every scene she is in. God only knows how Sophie Aldred managed to keep a straight face during recording. Jarring.
Don't be fooled though, this script has a lot of great dialogue. There are some terrific one-liners. The Doctor gets a few good ones in PLUS they are meeting Aristophanes, with whom the Doctor is great chums with. Forget everything you think you know about Athens because this script manages to turn it all on it's head, then right-side up and then back on it's head again all in the name of a light-hearted comedy the Doctor wants to put on.
One of the script's weaknesses is that sometimes it doesn't really know whether it wants to be serious or funny. There is an unusual balance that may not appeal to every fan.
Rating this story: 8/10. An oddball, but an interesting one at that.