Doctor Who – “The Dark Husband”

“This whole wedding is like making a nuclear bomb with half the instructions missing!” 
A week-long respite from a prolonged and bloody war, the Festival of the Twin Moons of Tuin makes Glastonbury look like a church fete… or so the brochure says.  
The Doctor and Ace are looking for rest and recreation. Hex is looking for the beer tent. But eternal enemies the ginger-haired Ri and the coot-bald Ir are plotting to turn their Festival truce to their own advantage. Only the Dark Husband might stop the celebrations turning to horror… but who is the Dark Husband? And what terror awaits him on his wedding night? 
If anyone knows any just cause or impediment… speak now. The lives of billions depend on it. 
Sylvester McCoy is the Doctor in The Dark Husband.  
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Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor) 
Sophie Aldred (Ace) 
Philip Olivier (Hex) 
Danny Webb (Ori) 
Andy B Newb (Irit) 
Benny Dawb (Tuin) 
Katarina Olsson & Sean Connolly (The Bards) 
Written by: David Quantick 
Directed by: Nicholas Briggs 
Released: March 2008 
Trailer –
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I really wanted to like The Dark Husband.  Sadly, even a few moments of attempted humor can’t cover the fact that this story is a disjointed mess suffering from lackluster performances and just being the worst thing of all…boring.  Simply boring.   
After a last minute escape from something that could only be described as an alien sneeze, complete with mucus and boogers, Hex wants a vacation and Ace is inclined to agree with him.  The Doctor’s suggestion?  The Festival of the Twin Moons of Tuin.  Dancing, drinking, more dancing, more drinking.  Sounds like a good time to the companions.  Except that Tuin is a graveyard, caught in the middle of ten thousand years of war between two alien races – the Ri and the Ir, each inhabiting one of Tuin’s moons.  The only time peace exists between them is during the Festival.  Ace and Hex are determined to do their best to enjoy the momentary break in hostilities, but the Doctor (as always) has a longer game in mind.  This war must end.  And there’s only one way to possibly bring the Ri and the Ir together in peaceful resolution – marriage.  Specifically, the Doctor’s… 
David Quantick is an incredibly prolific writer.  Since 1983, he’s written for magazines such as NME, penned biographies on figures such as Bill Hicks and Richard Pryor, contributed to programmes such as Brass Eye and Smack the Pony, and even worked alongside Armando Iannucci as a writer for  The Day Today and The Thick of It.  Quantick has also gone on record as being a huge Doctor Who fan, spoofing the show in 2013 on his BBC Radio 2 series The Blagger’s Guide To…  A chance encounter with Nicholas Briggs gave Quantick the opportunity to pitch several ideas to Big Finish, each involving the Seventh Doctor, and Briggs ended up soliciting the pitch that would eventually evolve into The Dark Husband, a story that was meant to be a lighter, more humorous story that would contrast the previous Seven/Ace/Hex release, the brooding Nocturne.   
With just a little editing, some polish, and a bit of enthusiasm on the part of the actors, The Dark Husband could very easily have been a stand-out story.   The Doctor “suggests,” with the aid of some convenient pamphlets found in the TARDIS, that the trio head to Tuin (almost immediately forgoing the Doctor’s pledge to ease up on his scheming during the events of Nocturne), and he spends the large majority of the story trying to broker peace between two warring races, getting a few jabs in at religion along the way, while also keeping his companions in the dark on how much he knows…and how much he doesn’t know, backfiring on him during the climax to episode two as he’s almost burned at the stake.  The truth behind the ten thousand years of war – who is behind it, why they’re behind it, and what it takes to stop the conflict – is an interesting concept, however this revelation isn’t expanded on very much, save for the fact that the tale of the origin of the Ir and Ri is told TWICE during the third episode, feeling more like padding than any sort of revelation.  In fact, there’s a good bit of repetition in The Dark Husband in the form of plot points and descriptions of rituals getting mentioned over and over again.  And there’s very little suspense or surprise at just who the Dark Husband and the Shining Wife are and what their impending nuptials entail for the remainder of their lives.  Clocking in at two hours, The Dark Husband easily could have lost 15 minutes from its run time and come off a stronger story for it, or better yet could have taken those 15 minutes and used them to provide firmer details and action to the plot’s key points and elements. 
The flaws with the script must have been apparent to the actors, as the performances of Sylvester McCoy, Sophe Aldred, and Philip Olivier feel flat and listless.  It’s easy to tell in the first five minutes of a Seventh Doctor story whether or not it’s going to be a good one based upon McCoy’s performance.  If it’s a quality script, McCoy will give it his all.  If it’s a poor script, he’ll just go through the motions.  With The Dark Husband, McCoy is definitely not doing much more with the dialogue than reading it directly from the script.  Considering the wordplay contained in Quantick’s script, McCoy could have had a field day with delivery and enunciation alone.  Instead, McCoy’s just tonally neutral with his delivery jumping all over the place.   On top of that, Sophie Aldred fails to show the fire or spark that defines Ace save for the climax of the second episode when she rushes to save the Doctor from being burned at the stake.  The sarcasm and teasing towards Hex is there, but even that feels half-hearted.  As for Hex, the normally sensitive and brave Scouse is instead a lout who only cares about getting his drink on and talks about his juvenile delinquent days with relish.  Philip Olivier has never portrayed Hex in such a manner in any of his previous stories, so the culture shock of him acting almost chav-like and being jealous towards Ace is just jarring.  I can’t blame Olivier for perhaps wanting to just wrap up the story and move on to the next one (The Magic Mousetrap) because the way Hex is written is simply rubbish.  Even when Ace and Hex are possessed and acting under the orders of somewhat else near the story’s end, attempts to sound as flat and listless zombies somehow comes off as flat and listless! 
On the other side, we get some performances that at least show a little bit of spark, but not for the reason you think.  The planet Tuin is played by Benny Dawb, the Er Irit is played by Andy B Newb, and the Ir Ori is played by Danny Webb…but Tuin and Irit are REALLY played by Danny Webb under some very silly pseudonyms.   Webb bounces back and forth between the cunning Ori, the bombastic Irit, and the egotistical Tuin, but does so incredibly quickly that there are times where he sounds almost out of breath with the sudden voice and accent changes!   The voices themselves are fine, but there’s really not much to write home about the characters other than…cunning, bombastic, egotistical.  The lack of any sort of long-term impact past the conclusion of this story may come from the fact that the script is written in a very straight forward manner in terms of dialogue.   The Doctor says something.  Ace says something.  Hex says something.  Irit says something.  Ori says something.  Repeat.  There’s very few, if any, moments where this pattern is broken, and that change solely depends on which characters are in which scenes.  Take one of them out, the pattern still continues, just without them in it.  As the director, Nicholas Briggs should have attempted to vary up the pattern somehow, or at least added a little more pop somehow. 
It’s the combination of repetitive delivery and bored actors that leads to The Dark Husband’s biggest flaw; the story isn’t funny.  The lackluster performances and predictable dialogue means that any attempts at humor fail to come off.   From Hex being given non-alcoholic beer (“there IS a war on”) to the Doctor’s exclamation (and McCoy’s pained delivery) of “There!  Will!  Be!  No!  Wedding!  Here!”  and Ace’s muttering of “this is another fine mess I’ve gotten myself into,” or even pushing the number one on the keypad of a stone robot to turn it off, the jokes fall flat and are quickly forgotten after a sigh or eye roll from the listener.   
It had been a year since Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, and Philip Olivier had been in the studio together for an audio.  It’s a damn shame that their return story had to be The Dark Husband.  A poor script with flat humor and repetitive concepts leads to bored actors and stilted performances.   In the end, The Dark Husband is an audio that can easily be skipped unless one is either a completionist or a masochist. 
+ It’s not The Rapture or Dreamtime 
– Lackluster performances 
– Humor that fails to deliver 
Cobi’s Synopsis – One of the poorest Big Finish releases in a while, The Dark Husband features bored actors delivering a repetitive script with poor jokes and missed opportunities. 
Next up – The Doctor struggles to unravel the twisted knot of temporal implausibilities which bind the TARDIS to Thomas Brewster… 
Peter Davison is the Doctor in…The Haunting of Thomas Brewster 


About cobiwann

A guy who's into a niche fandom of a niche fandom - the Big Finish audio plays of "Doctor Who." Also into the show itself, both old and new, plus pop culture and a smattering of human insight.
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