THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

Big Finish Productions
Whispers of Terror

Written by Justin Richards Cover image
Format Compact Disc
Running Time 90 mins
Released 1999
Continuity Between Revelation of the Daleks and
Trial of a Time Lord

Starring Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant
Also featuring Rebecca Jenkins, Hylton Collins, Matthew Brehner, Peter Miles, Mark Trotman, Nick Scovelli, Lisa Bowerman and Steffan Boje

Synopsis: The Doctor is accused of murder at the far future Museum of Aural Antiquities. But when the killings resume, the Doctor must uncover the real murderer and his highly unusual modus operandii.


Reviews

A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 13/2/00

Perhaps Whispers Of Terror proves how versatile Doctor Who as a series could be. It certainly wouldn`t have worked as well if it were a TV serial or a novel but as an audio adventure, it holds its head high. Justin Richards tale about a creature composed of sound wanting freedom may not be the most original tale ever, but it works for the Sixth Doctor and works well. This is most evident in the characterisation, which takes a leaf from the Sixth Doctor novels to show us the softer side to this incarnation, particularly in his attitude towards companion Peri.

In fact if anything Nicola Bryant seems to have toughened Peri, which is no bad thing and a refreshing change. The Doctor/Companion relationship is interesting here as both are treated equally, although Peri does have less to do than normal. The supporting cast, particularly Sarah Bowerman as Beth Pernell turn in great performances, and being a story in which the plot is based around sound, the effects are second to none. If there is a downside, it is that Whispers Of Terror demands the listener's attention, but this is a minor fault with an otherwise great tale.


An Audio Format Triumph by Peter Niemeyer 30/6/00

Of the first three Big Finish audio adventures, Whispers of Terror is by far my hands-down favorite. I feel it did an excellent job of exploring a type of story that couldn't have been done as effectively in the television or book media. The down sides were very minor in nature, and the up sides were excellent.

The story revolves around the Museum of Aural Antiquities, and a malevolent force that exists as a sound. (No big spoilers here...this information is on the CD package and becomes evident within the first ten minutes of the story.) This idea plays out very well in the audio format. The force often uses sound snippets from earlier scenes to communicate. There is one chilling scene in which the force whistles the death march as it stalks its prey. The science used to deal with the force is reasonably plausible. (No artron energy and neutron flow polarity here.) And there's one or two additional techniques which I can't elaborate on for fear of diminishing the surprise for future listeners.

The Sixth Doctor does well with this story, and Colin Baker does a great job playing him. His nature -- bold, brash, and arrogant -- is lifted right from Season 22. The supporting characters do seem rather willing to let the Doctor help them out, but this moves the story forward quickly and gives the Doctor and Peri more time to do interesting stuff, so I was not bothered by this.

Once again, the production qualities were excellent. Sounds jump from the left speaker to the right speaker. (If you're not listening to these episodes with very good speakers or headphones, you might as well be watching the show on a black and white TV.). Sounds overlap one another in interesting and dramatic ways, and the special effects for this particular story were well executed. I also liked the use of the techno incidental music which sounded like it came right from some untelevised Season 22 story.

The supporting cast did a very good job all around. It'd be nice if Big Finish stories had more female voices in them...so far all of the audio adventures have been very male heavy, but the cast was much more distinguishable here than in Phantasmagoria.

I have three criticisms, a major one, a minor one, and a global one. My major complaint pertains to Nicola Bryant's portrayal of Peri. It felt flat. I was easily able to visualize the other characters as being these fictional people. But Nicola's delivery sounded like Nicola just talking into a microphone, which tainted the suspension of disbelief ever so slightly. I made a similar criticism of Mark Strickson's Turlough in Phantasmagoria. Coincidence, or are the actors who play companions just not as versatile a group?

The minor criticism is the title. Given the clever premise, I would have preferred an equally clever title, something like "The Sound of Vengeance". (You may appreciate the title more once you've heard the story.)

My global gripe concerns the theme music. I know the Big Finish people chose the Fourth Doctor title music because this era of the program is considered the most definitive. But from an audio standpoint, I don't think this version is the most interesting. We also have different stories from different eras of the program, complete with historically accurate actors, companions, and references. Wouldn't it have been a better call to also make the theme music match?

In summation, an excellent story. Given what I've heard so far, I think it deserves a 10 out of 10.


Sounds of Joy by Robert Thomas 1/11/00

Colin Baker's proper debut on audio is without doubt a piece of class. Colin on top form, a Justin Richards script, Peri on fine form and an excellent monster. Colin Baker absolutely steals the show capturing his Doctor perfectly. Indeed, if I was trying to sell it to you, that is the pitch that I would use. All of his trademarks have been perfectly recreated by Colin and Justin, showing how he would develop in his next few stories. Nicola Briant is on top form as Peri and is fortunate that the script allows her to show some steel, mentally and physically.

As for the rest of the story, the supporting characters are all excellent with my favourite being Beth Pernell. The story is very claustrophobic, being set in a museum. Also mixing up some politics as well as a monster. I can't go into the story anymore for fear of spoilers. But rest asured that this is Doctor Who at its best form.


A Review by Richard Radcliffe 18/3/02

What struck me listening to this was the effort the writers and actors had made to recreate the 6th Doctor and Peri on TV. The first episode is littered with petty arguments that so irritated me in Season 22. So much better would it have been it they had recreated the attitude of the later stories of this Doctor/Companion team. But never mind, there it is.

Justin Richards has written a story perfect for this medium. A Museum of Aural Antiquities. A Museum of Sound, Speeches and Recordings. A Big Finish library of the 22nd Century if you like. I got the impression that this was a very dull place to look at, a modern functional building rather than rich in ornamentation. The idea clearly was to focus on the Museum Collection, the sounds. But a museum with headphones around, and sound booths, does not strike me as that interesting. So the story was off to bad start, in my mind that is. Even in Audio a Visual reference is very important I feel.

What the story turned out to be was a Thriller. Something is alive amongst the Museum's recordings. This provides for some very effective cliff-hangers, and a truly different Monster too. I can't help feel though that the idea was a bit stretched to cover the 4 episodes.

Of undeniable interest though are the characters on show. Colin Baker loves the Audio medium. He has said so on numerous occasions. He revels in his first Solo outing. His Doctor is wonderful, bold and brash, with a rich sonorous voice that transfers to audio extremely well - ironic for the most colourful and noticeable of Doctors. Nicola Bryant as Peri gives her all for the show too.

Of the rest it is Visteen Crane himself who stands out. He'd be nothing, not scary at all, without the sound wizards of Big Finish though - but Crane is the character that one remembers from this production. Curator Gantman and Beth Pernell are the other notables.

After the splendid Phantasmagoria I was expecting something wondrous again from Big Finish. It is so vastly different to that story, it is astounding they belong under the same label. All credit Big Finish for this, diversity has always been Doctor Who's strength.

Ultimately not my favorite Big Finish production. There are just not enough descriptions to provide that visual feast that I so like. But as an exploration of Sound it succeeds admirably, and boded extremely well for the future. 6/10


A Review by Ron Mallett 17/8/05

Whispers of Terror, written by Justin Richards and directed by Gary Russell, is a fine example of early BF. I think what makes this adventure stand head and shoulders above many of the first twenty of so productions is the central concept: a creature composed completely of sound.

The story is set in the Museum of Aural Antiquities. There are the normal early misunderstandings before the Doctor establishes his talents as an investigator and the intrigue begins. Some of the cliffhangers are a bit weak (ie. the revelation that the creature is a reincarnation of the great Visteen Krane) but it is an undeniably solid work that could easily be adapted for the television medium but probably works better in the audio domain. The story itself makes ideal use of the limitations of the medium, turning them to its advantage.

Aside from the strong combination of Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant, well-known actor Peter Miles (best known for his role as Nyder in Genesis of the Daleks) puts in a strong performance. Lisa Bowerman (Karra in Survival and later cast as Bernice Summerfield in the BF series) is also memorable as the evil would-be leader Beth Pernell. The performing cast and production crew reads a bit like a who's who of Who and gives it a certain insular sort of feel, even for a Big Finish production. Still, it was early days and no one could have imagined that the project would have gone on to be as successful as it has become.

The excellent incidental music provided by Harvey Summers and Nicholas Briggs almost sounds as if it were ripped out of time warp from 1985. It gives the production a real sense of era that is important to those of us who notice these little details.

This audio is well recommended and continues to stand head and shoulders above certain later efforts that explore similar themes and situations (Excelis Rising is one that comes to mind).