Big Finish Productions
The Haunting of Thomas Brewster

Written by Scott Alan Woodward Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Released 2008

Starring Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton

Synopsis: Thomas Brewster is haunted by the ghost of his drowned mother. But she is not the only apparition to disturb his dreams. Every few years, he is visited by a mysterious blue box...


A Review by Brian May 17/4/12

The Haunting of Thomas Brewster is a highly original and well-crafted offering from Big Finish. Jonathan Morris returns to the style of his earlier stories that messed with time: his excellent Festival of Death, and the not-quite-as-excellent-but-nevertheless-intriguing Anachrophobia. In the first episode, we follow Brewster through his less-than-happy youth, while we're made aware of the presence of the TARDIS and the fleeting appearances of the Doctor and Nyssa. This is offset in the final episode as the chronology is reversed, backtracking the course of the time machine and its crew. It turns out to be all perfectly logical and elegantly simple, but well worth the listener's time and effort, both of which are rewarded when they're able to weave all the threads together. It's not as complex as Festival, but the book format is easier for the dedicated to make their way back and forth, with just a few (or many) flicks of the page; working through a CD in the same way isn't as easy!

Each episode is very different from the other. The complete change of setting between parts one and two is disorienting, but that's part of the story's diversity. The opening instalment, as mentioned above, details all we need to know about the unfortunate childhood and adolescence of Thomas Brewster. It's full of Dickensian cliches, but not without a depressing authenticity as to the lot of many children during this time. The lack of regulars and the narration by another character are indicative of the "Doctor-lite" story that was cropping up in the New Series, with Love & Monsters being the obvious influence here. Part two returns the Doctor and Nyssa to the forefront, three has a nice base-under-siege style sequence, while the final episode neatly wraps things up. The very end, a cliffhanger in its own right, is brilliant!

The acting is first rate. Peter Davison is his usual capable self, while Sarah Sutton is excellent as Nyssa; she's certainly come a long way since her awkward Big Finish start. The non-regulars are all very good, my favourite being Christian Coulson, who does a lot with the minor part of Robert; his confronting the Doctor for using him in part three is excellent (the Time Lord deserves every bit of it too!). If there's one complaint with this production, it's the music. Not the actual score itself - it's very good, especially the atmospherically forlorn piano - but its repetitiveness! That annoying sting of eight-and-nine notes! How it drones on for about fifteen seconds between almost every single scene! Good grief, annoying is actually an understatement!

But overall The Haunting of Thomas Brewster is very clever and enjoyable, with a wonderful atmosphere, both in terms of setting (invoking the feel of Victorian London) and mood (a ghost story). Naturally there's an alien race involved, but this story can boast the near-unique achievement of making the otherworldly beings incidental to the plot, introducing them halfway through and then effectively forgetting about them. This avoids the usual disappointing cop-out of replacing a mood piece with the monster-of-the-week showdown. All in all, very impressive, despite the intrusive music. 8.5/10