Big Finish Productions
The Shadow of the Scourge
|Written by||Paul Cornell|
|Running Time||90 mins|
|Continuity||Between All-Consuming Fire
|Starring Sylvestor McCoy, Sophie Aldred and Lisa Bowerman|
|Also featuring Michael Piccarilli, Holly King, Nigel Fairs, Lennox Greaves, Caroline Burns-Cook and Peter Trapani.|
|Synopsis: The Doctor, Bernice and Ace find themselves dealing with a dead body that's come back to life, a mystical symbol that possesses its host, and a threat from another universe that's ready for every trick the Doctor's got up his sleeve. This time, has the Doctor gone too far?|
A Standout Piece Of Doctor Who Fiction by Robert Thomas 19/11/00
Last night I had the privilege of listening to one of the standout pieces of Doctor Who fiction. When I say standout I mean if there was any justice in the world it would cross to the mainstream as well as Doctor Who. In short should be a hit and regarded as a classic. The only other thing apart from the series I would place near it is Alien Bodies.
It is pure magic how Cornell uses the Scourge as symbology for the depression brought about by every day life is amazing. The best part of the story is the personal hell that The Doctor is put through. I do not believe even Kate Orman was ever this bad. The scenes with Bernice and The Doctor in part three were my favorites. As is expected she is as good here as in the books. Perhaps in line with Doctor Who it is fitting that the best NA should come via the medium of thee audio's.
It is less of a story about monsters and more one of coming to terms with your own individual demons. The dialogue is clever and witty, the pace relentless and no sign of the author struggling with a new medium.
The only bone I have to pick with this story is that why is Sylvestor McCoy getting all the best stories? This is truly awe inspiring when his others have been merely excellent (have not heard The Fires Of Vulcan yet). Colin's have been either very good or excellent. Peter has had one poor, one good and one very good (have not heard The Land Of The Dead yet). Maybe its because only 7th Doctor specialists, except Steve Lyons have been picked for a 7th Doctor story. Although after the trailers I have high hopes of The Mutant Element and The Holy Terror.
An Altogether Worthwhile Side-Step by D. Headman 20/11/00
I approached Shadow of the Scourge with some degree of trepidation - While I am not one of the NA-haters, neither am I one of the virgin NA's biggest advocates. Suffice it to say, I think they were a decidedly mixed bag of fantastic and questionable elements. I loved Bernice, but never fully warmed to Soldier-Ace, and didn't always like the more mature, less fantastical tone they had. That said, this never kept me from buying, reading, and, for the most part, enjoying, a good number of NA's between Timewyrm: Genesis, and Human Nature. All this should be borne in mind by the reader when considering my review, because if you have a markedly different attitude to my own, your reading of my review must be somewhat more critical.
That said, and all NA elements aside, this is a fantastic and fast-paced story. Part one drew me in effectively - which is all it really needed to do, part three kind of dragged a little, but parts two and four had me literally jumping up and down at points. The villains, the scourge, are everything a Doctor Who monster should be, frightening and unquestionably evil, yet the threat is complex and disorienting, since you never fully know what they are capable of. The result is that Scourge keeps you successfully on the edge of your seat, prety-much throughout. Similarly, the plot is basically traditional - it is essentially a "base-under-siege" story, like Robots of Death and Whispers of Terror, and this serves to off-set the more clear NA elements in the story and give it a distictly traditional feel. At the same time, the situation which leads to the "base-under-siege" is anything but straightforwards, and its conceptual complexity makes the story more interesting. Result: It feels very much like Doctor Who, but kept me anxious throughout, just as the TV episodes managed to do when I was a child. It's solidly plotted, moves forward quickly and excitingly with a few twists and turns, and has a truly alien feel to it. Big Finish has really begun to excel themselves at creating atmosphere entirely through audio.
With regaurds to the NA elements, they weren't too intrusive for me, and I actually liked some of them, but others may feel different. Here we have a plotting, scheming Doctor, who knows (or thinks he knows) what's going to happen before he arrives, a peek into the Doctor's inner emotional life, Ace as a hard-nosed Dalek killer, and of course, a clear moral to the story. But none of this is too intrusive. Ace is distinclty toned down from some of her earlier NA appearances, (Lucifer Rising, for instance) and the Doctor, while clearly a cosmic chess-player is not omnipotent, and certainly wouldn't be out of place in season 25 or 26. In any case, it's handled well. With regaurds to the glimpse we get into the Doctor's emotional life, I can only say I think it is unnecessary in a Doctor Who story, but it is at least moderately necessary to the plot of this particular story. I only wish Mr. Cornell could have handled it as sensitively and skillfully here as he did in Human Nature. In Scourge, it comes across a bit too obviously, and tends to diminsh the mystery of the character, to his detriment. And the Doctor's mystery is, to me, sacrosanct. Unfortunately, Benny was a bit of a let-down for me at first - in Episode one, she was far more abrasive than I remember her in the New Adventures, though she does tone it down and become more likeable as time goes on.
All told, this is very worthwhile, and I eagerly await another outing for this set of characters. Unfortunately, it leaves me with a sort of mental-quandry: I enjoyed both this story and Dalek Empire; The Genocide Machine, and I loved the portrayal of the Seventh Doctor in each. However, as they are portrayed, they are basically two entirely different characters at different ends of a spectrum, with the 80's TV version of the 7th Doctor falling pretty much in the middle between them (even though it is chronologically before both). So who IS the Seventh Doctor? A cosmic clown or a machaeiavellian manipulator (who really just wants to be loved). Someone please tell me :)
The Shadow of the B-Movie Plot by Peter Niemeyer 24/11/00
My overall evaluation of The Shadow of the Scourage is positive. This was one of those episodes where I loved some things and disliked others, and so my opinion sways back and forth from point to point.
First of all, the stuff I liked. I enjoyed Lisa Bowerman as Benny. I have never listened to any of the Benny audios or read any of the New Adventure/Benny books. So I didn't really know what to expect. But I found her to be a very likeable companion. I liked her interaction with Ace. They felt like sisters who willingly divvied up the chores to keep things in order. I would enjoy having more Ace/Benny or just-Benny epiosdes in the future. And to be honest, this episode has inspired me to try a few Benny audios.
Second, I liked the way that the story identified many of the 7th Doctor cliches without being too on the nose. There's a bit where Ace discusses how she was acting when she believed the Doctor betrayed her, and Ace and Benny are quite surprised when they find out that the Doctor hasn't been manipulating everything and is at a loss when figuring out what to do.
Third, I liked the special power that the Scourge had. I won't spoil anything here, but it was relatively novel, as was Ace's way for getting around it.
As to what I didn't like, the biggest drawback in my mind was the plot. Alien nasties who can take over the bodies of others are trying to create a bridge between their dimension and ours to allow an invasion force to attack earth. It was two hours of watching the Doctor and his companions run around in a B-movie plot. And there were parts of it that just didn't make sense, at least to me. It was great dialog and decent characterization, but the plot made it feel like a series of scenes viewed at some drama exposition and not a single narrative.
Also, too much technobabble. Fractional dimensions, the interior of the Doctor's mind, and for goodness sake nanites in the TARDIS? It has always bothered me when authors use pseudo-science to move the plot along. It makes me long for the days of the sonic screwdriver.
One note of interest: Ace seemed like the same old Ace I had always known. I believe she left the Doctor during the New Adventures books and later came back and rejoined him, and I believe this story was supposed to have taken place after that, but other than an off-handed mention about how Dalek cases can be pried open, I didnd't really notice anything different about her.
So, it wasn't a total wash, but it wasn't the event of the year either. Final score: 7 out of 10.
Virgin on the Over-familiar by Andrew Wixon 30/11/00
To paraphrase Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who think Doctor Who stopped in 1989 - and those who think it just stopped being on the telly. I'm in the former category, I'm afraid, and that fact inevitably affects my response to the New Adventures-set Shadow of the Scourge. I was intially rather worried that I wouldn't be able to give this CD a fair hearing - but I genuinely believe it has flaws that even the most rampant canon-ecumenist would be unable to ignore.
The setting is familiar enough; a group of people are trapped in an isolated, corridor-filled environment and preyed upon by an insidious alien menace. So far, so TV, but it very rapidly becomes clear we're in well-trodden Virgin territory. The Doctor behaves in a staggeringly devious way. Benny has lots of one-liners (though, surprisingly, doesn't get smashed). Ace is in her terribly stoical, uber-macho NA incarnation (hasn't the woman heard of earplugs?). There is much soul-searching and graphic violence. Large parts of episode three seem to be derived from Paul Cornell's first novel, Revelation.
Either the NA formula has become very tired indeed or it just doesn't work in another medium. The ultimate defeat of the villains by the power of people feeling really good about themselves is toe-curling and anticlimactic. The prolonged navel-gazing by the regulars, alternately angst-ridden and warm 'n' fuzzy, seemed a bit too familiar from the book range.
The script itself is, sad to say, rather clumsy in parts, with many occasions where one character tells another what's going on directly in front of them simply for the audience's benefit. The performances are agreeable, although Sophie Aldred's twin-track performance as Ace (to begin with, shout a lot - then start shouting even louder) is rapidly beginning to grate again. Also, the vocal treatment given to the monsters has the unfortunate effect of making them sound like Cybermen. The CD cover is also a bit of a dog's breakfast.
But beyond the story itself, I'm dubious about Big Finish's adoption of the Virgin continuity. I very much enjoyed parts of the book range - particularly Paul Cornell's novels - but focussing solely on the TV series and their own creations at least kept them above the undignified fanboy scrum arguing over what is and isn't 'canon'. This just smacks uneasily of a free plug for their forthcoming range of solo Benny CDs. Strange how announcements as to what does and doesn't count as 'proper Doctor Who' seem so often to be commercially motivated...
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 20/1/01
Proving that you don`t need to be a fan of the Virgin NAS; although a little basic knowledge helps, Paul Cornell has turned out a top audio drama featuring the regular team of The Doctor, Bernice and Ace.
The Shadow Of The Scourge is a tale about facing and confronting fears and inner the demons inside us all. A simple premise, which gradually builds into a wonderful tale which really puts The Doctor through the grinder. Here Sylvester McCoy is faced with a new challenge, in portraying a different Doctor, in that he is much more manipulative and darker than ever before. And hats off to him as he does a great job, especially considering the cliffhangers he is dealt. Sophie Aldred I prefer as the old Ace, but as a soldier she is worthy also. Best of all is Lisa Bowerman as Bernice, whose wry comments and dry humour work great wonders here. It would be worth her recording a story with just The Doctor to see how she fares.
There are other things I could mention, the supporting cast, excellent effects, even the little nods to continuity such as the owls, but the three regulars did it for me. This is a welcome foray from Big Finish, but one they shouldn`t do too much as I`m a traditionalist; that said however it is still worthy of 9/10.
NB I don`t normally rate the BF Audios,but for arguments sake they are The Sirens of Time 6/10. Phantasmagoria 8/10. Whispers of Terror 8/10. Land of the Dead 7/10. The Fearmonger 9/10. The Marian Conspiracy 9/10. The Genocide Machine 6/10. Red Dawn 7/10. The Spectre of Lanyon Moor 8/10. Winter for the Adept 8/10. The Apocalypse Element 8/10. The Fires of Vulcan 9/10.
The Doctor and Benny and Ace, oh my! by Jamas Enright 8/6/01
As a fan of the Virgin novels, what more could I want than an audio story featuring the Doctor, Ace and Benny? Well, maybe a TV story, but this will do. Some have seen this as a justification of Bernice, and the Virgin series, but I like it for what it is, a treat for the fans.
A typical Virgin novel involves getting to the end and finding out that the Doctor's plan was in effect all along, and everything worked out accordingly. Paul Cornell tries to invert this by having the Doctor's plan fall apart and having to make things up as he goes along, more in line with a typical TV story. However, this is just as plot convenient as having the Doctor's plan work out, so it doesn't come across as anything more amazing.
The story itself is about guilt, fear and human failure, externalised in the form of the Scourge (pronounced Skurge), an insect like race. I found it hard to picture the Scourge, even with the praying mantis on the cover. Sound-wise, the actors just got distorted voices, so I tended to think more of normal humans taken over mentally without external effects. A bit of a shame as they might have come across more monsterly in another medium.
Sylvester McCoy takes to being the Dark Doctor quite well, getting into the role in a way that he might not be able to in other audios. I did think there was a tendency towards over-enunciation of words, and when he is taken by the Scourge the word that came to mind was 'over-acting'.
Sophie Aldred takes on a battle-hardened Ace, but if you weren't already aware of her history in the Virgin novels, I don't think you'd be able to tell that she's supposed to be more mature. However, I suspect that comes more from having played a more mature Ace in the audios anyway.
Lisa Bowerman wouldn't have been my pick for the voice of Bernice (not that I have a pick for my version of Benny), but she does play the role well, although given that she has done many Benny audios (which I haven't heard) already that shouldn't be too surprising. No doubt having her creator write the episode helps, but Bernice lifts off the pages of the novels to the audio and really shines.
Michael Piccarilli puts in a good performance as Michael Pembroke, but I wasn't too interested in Holly King's Annie Carpenter. Nigel Fairs plays a rather whiny Gary Williams, so much so I wouldn't have minded if he had died. Lennox Greaves's performance is rather varying, his accent under-cutting his villainous aspect, but Peter Trapani works very well.
I have a fairly simple production quality test: can I understand everything that's said? Some of the earlier audios have had problems here, either with the sound effects or the score coming in over the dialogue, but all lines here were well delivered, the sound effects work, and the score wasn't intrusive. Well done on the production side.
Things to look out for: McGann's Doctor having a cameo appearance, a complete character twist at the end, and a reference to New Zealand. All in all, a great side-step into Virgin territory, and here's looking to Big Finish doing this again.
A Review by Rob Matthews 22/10/01
With the Virgin NAs now only accessible through auction sites or the use of a time scoop, this audio drama is the only freely available slice of 7th Doctor-Ace-Bernice Summerfield action. Scripted by Paul Cornell, it handily acts as something of a pastiche of his novels for that line, particularly Timewyrm: Revelation and Love and War.
I was a bit hesistant about the audio format - the first one I heard was Sword of Orion and it was pretty disappointing. Then again, much of the Cybermen's appeal is visual, so perhaps it's not surprising. Shadow of the Scourge, sitting on the shelf next to it, had looked less professional somehow. The cover appeared to have been cobbled up on Photoshop in about four minutes, leading me to suspect that the production itself would be similarly shoddy.
However, it did feature one of my favourite Doctor/companion teams, and was by one of the best Doctor Who authors, so it seemed worth taking a chance on it for my second audio foray.
Well, I still had some doubts to start off with. It had a traditionally Whoey opening - a fake psychic accidentally channels a real monster - a bit reminiscent of Planet of Spiders. Ho hum. Then the Doctor and co turned up, and McCoy seemed to be spitting out his lines, as if he was shifting around in his chair trying to get comfotable while reading them. Benny's comments seemed more convoluted when performed than they do written down, and she came off a bit annoying.
Long story short, my doubts were utterly and thoroughly assuaged by the end of part 4. SOTS is a superb drama. You may not like it if you're one of those people who writes off anything that deals with human emotions and failings as Angst (I despise that glib word), but otherwise I'd recommend it with bells on.
The plot, as so often in these cases is nominal. Not as much as, say, Kate Orman's sublime Set Piece, which was technically about an out-of-control donut. Shadow of the Scourge is, to Cornell's credit quite intricately worked out, yet - also to his credit - the specifics just don't seem to matter that much. It's like with the villains from Human Nature. They were rendered in quite a bit of detail, but were patently just there to serve a narrative function, and I didn't remember them afterwards.
The plot of SOTS boils down to this - Monsters from another dimension are going to destroy the world. To stop them, you must defeat your own self-doubt. Not as easy as it sounds.
McCoy is at the top of his game as the most melancholy of the Docs, and its wonderful to hear these lines performed by the man himself Suffice it to say, he's stopped shifting in his chair by the time we come to the scenes set in the Doctor's mind. And, as happened in the books, he now interacts better with Benny than with Ace, and both have a nice line in quips (a selection taken out of context - "I like to keep an open mind", "As William Shakespeare once said to me...", "Who'd have thought cross-stitchers would be so finicky?", "...with hilarious results", "Are you planning on regenerating soon?" etc). As with the novels, the humour keeps the angst (bugger! now I'm saying it!)- neatly at bay, without either feeling grafted on or diffusing the tension.
Benny's final assertion that tea and scones beat practically anything Evil has to offer is wonderful. Such a sentiment could have been glib or embarrassing but its so well written and beautifully performed that it floored me. Anyone can say these things and be ironic. Cornell's gift is that, despite the depths of darkness he's willing to explore, he really means it.
Strangely enough, I doubt I'll buy any more of the audios. I suspect they'd be anticlimactic now.
A Review by Douglas B. Killings 23/1/02
Let me begin this review by coming clean on one subject: the 7th Doctor era is probably my least favorite era in the history of the series. I am one of those people who find the worst Jon Pertwee infinitely preferable to anything produced in Seasons 24-26 (and yes, that does include Carnival of Monsters and The Mutants!), and as I have recently started reading the EDAs, I'm finding their version of the Doctor more bearable to that found in any of the NAs that I've attempted to read thus far. Therefore, I am probably not approaching this audio with as open a mind as perhaps I should.
So having said all of this, it should come as no surprise when I say that I found The Shadow of the Scourge to be my least favorite 7th Doctor BF audio to date. It, more than any of the McCoy-era audios previously, strikes me as being the one most in line with the flavor of that era -- not surprising, considering that the story was written by Paul Cornell, a writer who seems to be in love with that entire slice of the Doctor Who pie.
The story seems very much in the flavor of Seasons 24-26, complete with silly situations and sometimes forced humor, so much so that I could easily picture this one as a televised episode anywhere in that time frame. Added to this is a large dose of NA continuity: Ace is pretty much the NA Ace, battle scars and all; Prof. Bernice Summerfield is also there, at times hogging the spotlight (toward the end, Cornell can't resist treating his creation as almost exactly the Doctor's equal); and the Doctor is the conniving, manipulative bastard who's planned everything from the start and is trying to keep ten steps ahead of everyone else. The bad guys are a group of overconfident trans-dimensional beings (The Scourge) bent on conquering Earth so they can feed off of the humans there, and the setting is a hotel in Kent in which an amusing assortment of contrasting events are taking place.
The best that I can say for the story is that it isn't terribly complicated and has a few amusing moments, but nothing spectacular. It doesn't draw you in immediately, but neither does it plod along aimlessly until it reaches an end.
My biggest problem with the story, I think, is the inclusion of Bernice. It's kind of odd, because I think I should like this character, but for some reason I just don't. She strikes me as being too cynical, too full of herself, to be a likeable companion, and I think Cornell's obvious preference for her in this story takes something away from it. Some of the other Cornell touches, like his cognitive dissonance approach to story telling as well as his slightly angsty Doctor, also undermine but not to the extent that Bernice does. I guess it's all just a matter of individual preference. At least Cornell, when he tries to mix in some hard science, is more believable at it than, say, Pip and Jane Baker.
Now, to be on the plus side, I can say that the production itself is fine, actually better acted than just about anything from the series' last several seasons. All the regulars are fine in their roles, pretty much as you would expect and more (given the character expansions from the novels), while the non- regulars approach their roles with verve and ability. No problems with the direction or sound mixing either -- it is all up to BF's usual high standards. But despite all of this, I can't say that I really enjoyed this one. It harked back too much to an era that I didn't particularly like, and to a book series I have not really enjoyed. In contrast, I was much more satisfied with The Fearmonger and The Fires of Vulcan than I was with this one.
So the bottom line is, if you're a big fan of the McCoy era and the New Adventures, then you'll probably get a big kick out of The Shadow of the Scourge. But for those of us who aren't, well, it's there and you probably won't loose too much by listening to it just once, but after that it won't be high on your re-listen priority list.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 26/3/02
I approached this audio with tentativeness. The New Adventures were so varied in their quality, I just wasn't sure which it would be - Very Good, or Very Bad. One thing for sure it would be nice to hear Benny. Having not really bothered with the Benny Adventures, I hadn't heard Lisa Bowerman's portrayal - Benny was the Benny conjured up in my mind from the many NA's. I too, like many others it seems, preferred the Ace of TV, rather than the Dalek fighter she became. I would try to not bring all the baggage from the New Adventures, not one of my favorite periods of DW, and enjoy it on it's own merit.
The first thing to comment on is Sylvestor McCoy's portrayal. I cannot remember the 7th Doctor ever having to go through the sheer agony and change that this story portrays. McCoy is equal to it. The audio is resplendent with groans of agony, from the darkest reaches of pain. The Doctor is all-powerful in this. He begins with his characteristic manipulation of events, sure of everything. Things get out of hand and ahead of him, but he always seems in control. McCoy is a fantastic Doctor, and this is further evidence of it.
Lisa Bowerman is brilliant as Benny. She is very similar to how I expected, even to the point of her portrait on the cover (which is a terrible cover by the way!). There is a lot of stuff in there about how much the Doctor means to her, and that's nice to see. Ace doesn't come across quite as well unfortunately. What we get is the Ultra Noisy version of Ace. The ear-slapping scene is suitably horrific, but it makes her even noisier than ever. Sophie Aldred has clearly tried to make Ace the NA Ace, and she succeeds too well for my tastes.
The story is easy to follow, and has some great moments. The Scourge are a good monster, and the Hotel setting provides a very effective isolationist setting. The 3 conferences (Spiritualist, Scientific and Cross Stitch) are a highly unusual background to the action. The 3 leaders of each event form the supporting characters. The fake Medium is portrayed well, but the 2 men merge together in their portrayals.
Credit again to Big Finish too. The Scourge's voices are Cybermen-ish, but effective. Highlights are the ripping of flesh when the Scourge takes over it's human hosts. Some wonderfully descriptive dialogue too. The picture in my mind this created was very horrific!
Shadow of the Scourge is another deviation from the norm for Big Finish. Like The Holy Terror which follows it, it succeeds. Side-steps are often very effective in Who, giving us something we never expected such attention to be given.
It's better than the lion's share of the NA's, and stands as a pretty good audio production. 7/10
A Review by John Seavey 6/12/03
A Seventh Doctor adventure, set during the New Adventures and featuring Ace and Benny, written by Paul Cornell. I think I was genetically primed to enjoy this one from birth. And enjoy it I did, very much, albeit with a few reservations... Cornell's Seventh Doctor is always a much more unsubtle manipulator than he is when written by anyone else, using his Time's Champion status like a blunt instrument instead of a scalpel, then always being amazed that it doesn't work. The ending wobbles across the line from "uplifting" to "sappy" like a three-day drunk trying to satisfy a policeman... and, as with so many other Cornell stories, the villains are kind of crap. But really, you do not go to Paul Cornell looking for great villains and a Seventh Doctor comfortable with his manipulations, and you take the occasional sappy moment as a price well worth paying for wonderful dialogue and great moments... and a great performance by Sylvester McCoy seals the deal.
We All of the Universe Have Our Own Terrors to Face by Jacob Licklider 2/9/17
Having started out producing audio dramas based off the Bernice Summerfield novels by Virgin (don't worry, those books and adaptations will be reviewed here eventually), it was only natural to set at least one story within the run of Virgin New Adventures, and lucky for us it came very early on in the range. Set between All-Consuming Fire and Blood Harvest, The Shadow of the Scourge sees the first performed story bringing together these three characters and the first audio drama written by Paul Cornell. I view Cornell as one of Virgin's best writers; of the four novels of his I've read, not a single one of them have been lacking in quality, so he has a lot to live up to.
The plot doesn't disappoint, with the Doctor, Ace and Benny arriving at a hotel in Kent where giant preying mantises from another dimension that feed off of fear and anxiety are trying to break into ours. Already the plot is more inventive then ten or so of the Virgin novels that supposedly come before, and the opening two scenes really drag you in with a meeting of depressed cultists bringing the titular Scourge into our dimension totally by accident followed by the introduction to the TARDIS travelers arriving at the most terrifying location imaginable, a triple-booked convention. From there, Cornell explores a lot of the more common anxieties of people - like fear of rejection, fear of poverty and just plain fear of the unknown - to a stunning degree as he pulls people apart. Based on these elements, the audio drama is perfect at representing this era of the Virgin New Adventures. As a story, however, it does have a few plot failures, mainly that the ending wraps up into such a tight little bow it comes off as contrived, as the characters who had to face their fears had everything work out for them. Yes, Cornell is going for a "your fear is only as strong as you make it" and a "be honest and everything will go your way" message, but that only happens because that's how the Scourge can be defeated. Cornell wrote himself into a corner and even suggests the Scourge will try again while they are quite utterly and completely defeated. It would have worked so much better if things didn't go well for just one of the characters.
And, speaking of the characters, Cornell shows in his script just how much he understands the main characters and their development in the Virgin New Adventures. The Doctor here is manipulative to the extreme, as he knows what is going on and what he has to do with the Scourge to save not just the planet, not even the universe, but our entire dimension from them. Sylvester McCoy proves just how good he can be as before, having more than a minute of lines, you know the situation's stakes and he has everything under control. So it is just amazingly sweet to see that the Scourge have anticipated his plans and he has to compensate. I mean, the Doctor gets taken over at the end of Part One and spends Parts Two and Three Jon Pertwee-style in a self-induced coma. Yes he is present in these episodes, but in true Virgin fashion he spends them in the background while Ace and Benny have to figure everything out. Benny is played by Big Finish actor and director Lisa Bowerman in her Doctor Who debut. This is her seventh time playing Benny, as Bowerman has just finished the first series of her own adventures. She immediately slips into the role of Benny and knows what she has to do. She spends most of Parts Two and Three with the Doctor in his mind where they give references to Timewyrm: Revelation (allowing for a creative way to change what the Doctor's mind is like) and the controversial ending to The Dying Days by looking in on the Eighth Doctor and Benny making some comments. Bowerman steals the show in every scene she's in, allowing for some of the best dialogue between the Doctor and a companion. Rounding out our main cast is Ace, who is the weakest link of the story. Sophie Aldred is trying her hardest to be like the New Ace of the Virgin New Adventures, and she does an all right job. The problem with Ace is that it feels like director Gary Russell, who hated the New Ace, interfered with the already-great script.
The supporting characters are extremely varied. First you have the villains who are truly menacing, as they don't care what happens to humanity but just want to eat everyone. They are extremely creepy, especially if you've got a fear of bugs. The other group is the congoers, who all have some sort of emotional baggage. First is Annie Carpenter, who is pregnant with a child out of wedlock and has been scamming people into a televangelist-like system to get rick quickly. Next is scientist Michael Pembroke, who is Carpenter's lover and a scientist who is studying time travel and stuck in an unhappy marriage. Finally is Brian Hughes, who is a cross-stitching enthusiast who stole two thousand pounds from his organization out of greed.
To summarize, The Shadow of the Scourge proves just how great the Virgin New Adventures could actually be with a thrilling story with some thrilling characters. While not Cornell's best work, it's still pretty good, as it tackles all the characters except Ace well, due to some directorial interference, as Gary Russell disapproved of Ace's new character. It also suffers from having an ending that wraps itself up almost too nicely in a bow, causing an almost too-happy ending. 87/100