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Reviewed: Big Finish's Vampire of the Mind

Some have been rumoured to say that writer Justin Richards is similar in style to prolific Doctor Who writer Terrance Dicks.
Richards is a reliable and safe pair of hands when it comes to sculpting an adventure, always producing something fun for readers or listeners to sink their metaphorical teeth into. His characterisation of the Doctor is very much that of one entity with a different face rather than many distinct personalities varying from incarnation to incarnation. Dicks, especially with his Doctor Who novels, has been bestowed with similar comments.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Vampire of the Mind is not only one of the safest adventures that the Sixth Doctor has had for a while (and one of the most traditional in tone); it is also one of the most fun adventures that he has embarked upon in recent years.
With any story in the middle of a trilogy, a writer is normally faced with two options: build upon the first tale and culminate with a huge, explosive cliff-hanger ending leading to the third and final entry or… tell a standalone adventure with only hints of what’s to come next. Very wisely, Richards elects the latter.
On a desolate island on the south coast of England is a solitary castle, one that has enraptured the Doctor’s attention with its connection to the sinister Dominus Institute and its CEO Andrew Gobernar; perhaps Richards was listening to The Avengers recently, as the setting is very reminiscent. Scientists are missing, and the trail leads here, so Old Sixy and his newly acquired friend Heather have managed to blag their way in with a few hefty scientific ideas. It’s all so wonderfully paying tribute to the Third Doctor’s era by this point you’ll feel a wave of nostalgia.
Of course the audience knows the Master is involved but the wonderful angle here is not his reveal but the anticipation of Alex Macqueen’s performance as the Master as well as his first face off with Colin Baker. Rest assured, it’s worth the wait.
Macqueen’s insidious performance brings his incarnation of the Master to life in full form. He’s suave, fiercely intelligent, psychotically driven, and incredibly dangerous. All this is gathered from his subtle character ticks that Macqueen brings to the role. The timbre of his voice, the purring of his tones, and the manic fury of his shouted orders all bring this newer incarnation of the Master fully into the fold via a more traditional Doctor Who tale. He plays well with Baker here, perhaps not the ultimate pairing of Doctor/ Master incarnations but certainly enough bombast between the two leads to create an interesting dynamic.
The story for Vampire of the Mind is simple but fun stuff, with the Master trying to use the Doctor, and the so-called “vampire” of the title, to repair some of his recently lost memories. This leads to a couple of sublime continuity references that will leave long term viewers and listeners punching the air.
That’s not to say there aren’t minor faults along the way. The cliffhanger for Part Two felt like it was cut midway through the dialogue by a cable company so they could show adverts, rather than shape it to the crescendo it should be. And a slight directional misstep that has Baker sounding mildly concerned with his predicament rather than worried. There’s also a small attempt to reference the revived series of Doctor Who that leaves the listener feeling as if UNIT should fire their IT department’s firewall and security personnel
These quibbles aside, Vampire of the Mind is tremendous fun and feels like a ‘classic’ Doctor Who story. Richards offers the tried and trusted storytelling techniques he knows well to craft a comforting and familiar serial that leaves the listener thoroughly satisfied.
The old hands are the best, after all.
Vampire of the Mind is available on CD or via download from Big Finish.

Mez Burdett

Reviewed: Big Finish's Vampire of the Mind

by Mez Burdett time to read: 3 min
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