June 28, 2012 by Aidan
The Blurb: When Lord Woolcroft and his team break open the fabled Tomb of Artemis, sealed for thousands of years, they are astonished by what they find inside…
The Doctor and Amy have come to Smyrna in 1929 to investigate a mystery. The Doctor knows something very bad happened there: something caused a lot of people to die and an entire, magnificent Temple to be found and then immediately lost again.
But he doesn’t know what is picking off the archaeologists one by one, or how it is connected to the terrifying howling in the night. And as he and Amy get closer to the terrible truth behind an ancient evil, he begins to wish he’d never found out.
It’s been hard work and we’ve had our share of tragedy but we’ve made the biggest discovery since Tutankhamen.
The Production: The Doctor has a bit of a history when it comes to confronting creatures and aliens that have set themselves up as gods, so this story’s encounter with a priestess of the Greek goddess has a hint of the traditional about it.
If people will not believe in Artemis as men then they’ll follow her as hounds.
I really enjoyed the way that the Doctor makes his entrance which struck me as a clever throwback to the first encounter between the Doctor and Raine that Andrew Cartmel had planned for Season 27. It is a lovely way for the pre-titles sequence to end and I think it sets up the rest of the story nicely, making it clear that the Doctor has come to this location on purpose to solve a mystery and save the lives of the archaeologists participating in the excavation.
That mystery unfolds at a pretty sharp pace, particularly once the characters discover the feast of Artemis. That discovery is a beautifully grotesque moment in the story yet Goss avoids being too graphic in his descriptions, allowing us to imagine what a character sees rather than hearing about it in gruesome detail.
This moment really kicks off the body of the adventure as we learn more about the statue of Artemis, what it wants and how the hounds have been made. While the Doctor asks questions and engages with her priestess, Amy runs off into the corridor to escape from the vicious hounds. In spite of having quite a short running time, Goss manages to pack a lot of incident into his story and pleasingly crafts a story which isn’t resolved with a gadget or by luck but with the characters’ observation.
I’m supposed to be cleaning and classifying the pottery fragments they’re unearthing, I’m getting by with an old make-up brush and some printouts from Wikipedia.
Goss utilizes an interesting framework narrative for his story, having the events at the tomb be recounted by the granddaughter of one of the archaeologists. She begins telling her story in the form of a letter to a museum curator, using excerpts from Amy Pond’s diary and a letter that the Doctor had sent her.
I liked that this approach allowed us to hear multiple perspectives on the action and Goss does a good job of implying that what we hear are snippets of the diary with the boring, routine moments cut out to focus on just the action. I did think though that keeping a diary didn’t quite seem like an Amy Pond thing to do and there are certainly a couple of points in the story where it stretches credibility that Amy would be writing, although one of those is done for comic effect.
The food. I’m so hungry. Why am I so hungry?
Given that this was one of the earliest efforts at writing for the characters of the Eleventh Doctor and Amy, it is a pleasant surprise that Goss manages to capture the pair as well as he does here. Certainly the Doctor is a very good match for Smith’s Doctor in his first few stories, while his Amy is every bit as lively and cheeky as she was on screen though I do think that Goss writes for Amy perhaps a little more youthfully than Gillan plays her on television.
The audiobook is split into sections with Matt Smith reading some and Clare Corbett reading the framing letter and Amy’s diary entries. This struck me as an interesting approach as it does keep things sounding lively and helped me stay focused on what was going on, yet I felt that neither narrator gave a perfect reading. Smith certainly captures the energy of the show and its ability to build tension with his breathless delivery but I thought his lines as the Doctor seemed to merge a little too much with the sections of narration which left some of his lines sounding a little flat.
Clare Corbett certainly does a fine job capturing Amy’s lively personality and manages to clearly distinguish between the two female narration parts she reads. Her reading as the Doctor is not perfect but certainly very serviceable, and she does a good job of building tension and building atmosphere.
Listening to the story for the second time, I found myself almost wishing that the story had been read more in the manner of a Big Finish Companion Chronicle with Matt Smith reading the Doctor’s lines and those of some of the male characters with Corbett handling the bulk of the narration. I think that would have made the moments in which the Doctor speaks become all the more attention-grabbing.
Like most audio books, the focus here is on the two actors reading the story but there are some interesting musical stings and sound effects in the background that do enhance the readings. The musical stings have a little Turkish flavor and so provide a nice sense of place when we hear them, building a sense of atmosphere for the story and nicely breaking up the tale between scenes.
In Review: An entertaining adventure that manages to pack a lot in to its brief running time. Given that this was one of the first Eleventh Doctor audio stories recorded, it does have a surprisingly good grasp on the two main characters. The tale itself is quite engaging, adventure fare but while the two narrators give a spirited reading I did find the line between Smith’s Doctor’s voice and the descriptions of the action were a little blurred.