Monday, March 7, 2016

The Holy Terror by: Robert Shearman directed by: Nicholas Pegg: All Hail the Big Talking Bird

The Holy Terror stars Colin Baker as the Doctor and Robert Jezek as Frobisher.  It was written by Robert Shearman, directed by Nicholas Pegg, and released in November 2000 by Big Finish Productions.


Doctor Who and religion never really have mixed with very successful results. The Aztecs touched on how religions can become flawed and end poorly and Meglos did the whole science versus religion storyline and wasn’t very good.  The Holy Terror sets itself apart from the rest with its writer being Robert Shearman.  Shearman is first and foremost a cynic.  He likes The Space Museum and knows exactly how to tug at your heartstrings with bleak storytelling and some gutting moments.  His first Doctor Who script is mainly a comedy with a lot of biting satire on how religions and even normal people treat tradition as law even when they are quite silly.  The plot involves the Doctor and space detective Frobisher landing in this castle where the emperor is the people’s eternal god and if the god dies, anybody still worshiping the previous god has the choice to recant or be executed.  This allows Shearman to point out just how crazy people can be going forward to religion by using parodies and caricatures of people to keep us interested.  I mean the people eventually worship Frobisher because he’s a big talking bird who appeared with a big blue box.  The commentary on human nature is extremely fascinating as everyone falls into these traps and before you know it the laugh out loud comedy changes into a piece of heart wrenching drama about sins of the past.  I’d go further into the plot except for the fact that Shearman is famous for his story twists changing the direction of the story.


Where Shearman succeeds the most is with the characters and the best place to start is with Frobisher.  Frobisher is a companion from the Doctor Who Magazine comics and just so happens to be a big talking penguin who can also shapeshift.  So yeah, why hasn’t this been done before?  It would happen partially again with C’rizz, but here it is so good because Frobisher is played up as a clichéd detective which really works within the context of the story.  He is played by Robert Jezek who is having a ball with the part and as someone who hasn’t had any exposure to the character, this is a great introduction.  I honestly wish Big Finish would have featured the penguin more than he did.  Next up is the Doctor who is extremely softened here and Colin Baker is loving every minute of the script.  He gets himself embroiled in the mystery of the castle and society as things don’t quite add up.  Yes he gets away from Frobisher for most of the play, but the bookends are some of the most entertaining pieces of Doctor Who and should be heard immediately.  The supporting characters consist of a bunch of clichés with the power hungry Queen Livilla who is just awful but delightfully so.  There’s the emperor Pepin who is a complete wimp throughout the story as he gives his power to Frobisher.  There is the backstabbing high priest and the evil hunchbacked younger brother.  The most interesting character has to be the scribe Eugene Tacitus played masterfully by Sam Kelly who has the entire story be revolved around him and his past.  The main villain of the piece is credited as The Boy and is one of the scariest villains to ever grace Doctor Who.  I can’t give too much away as to the fate of the story, but know how good the reveals actually are.


The direction was done by Nicholas Pegg who shows just how different he is compared to Nicholas Briggs and Gary Russell.  I can’t quite put my finger on it but after Briggs and Russell this story just feels like a refreshing change of pace.  Also the music is beautifully medieval as the setting is a castle and you can really get yourself lost in the setting.


To summarize, The Holy Terror is absolutely brilliant and sets the standard for all the Robert Shearman stories.  The acting and characters are on point with Colin Baker and Robert Jezek hitting it off so well it becomes a shame that Frobisher didn’t really have his own series of Big Finish adventures.  Again seek this out to figure out why I’ve been so vague and this review is quite a bit shorter than it should be.  You will not be disappointed and I can definitely give this one 100/100.

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