2001: Big Finish: Doctor Who - Revisiting MINUET IN HELL - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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2001: Big Finish: Doctor Who - Revisiting MINUET IN HELL

Moo enters a political hellfire.
Minuet in Hell is a weird outing for early Big Finish, and those familiar with the territory will know that’s really saying something. It’s important to say that right away before we get into the details of this story, because whether you love it or hate it (there’s no middle ground here) you will come away remembering Minuet in Hell for years to come. Yet paradoxically, revisiting the story 20 years after original release, it feels like a unique experience over again.

Minuet in Hell has as its big selling point the presence of both Paul McGann and Nicholas Courtney, allowing the Eighth Doctor and Brigadier to meet. It’s a treat to get that detail filled-in for both characters, and both actors give it their all. You can positively hear McGann’s Doctor beaming with joy when they finally reunite as he introduces current companion Charley to “my best friend”.

The story to facilitate their meeting sees the Brigadier come to America on behalf of UNIT, where a 51st state is about to be added to the union. Running to be its governor we have a man who in public puts on the appearance of a conservative christian for the cameras but who behind closed doors is doing very unchristian things like hosting orgies. It’s honestly no exaggeration to say it feels like a Trump satire, except that this came out 2001.

That said, at least Trump (to the best of my knowledge) was never getting involved with summoning satan-like entities from parallel dimensions to attend his parties. Whereas here that’s exactly what’s happening, and it falls to the Doctor, Brigadier, and Charley, at first all separately from each other, working to expose and put a stop to it.

Unfortunately for the Doctor, he goes through half the story with a serious case of this incarnation’s signature amnesia, while another man, played in some inspired casting by Nicholas Briggs, has somehow ended up with the Doctor’s memories stuck in his head instead. Of course it all gets fixed in the end, but leads to some nice character moments for the Brigadier initially not recognising the true Doctor, getting the wrong idea because of his knowledge of regeneration. It’s refreshing to see someone who knows about regeneration misuse that knowledge; Minuet in Hell makes for a unique take on the familiar story beats.

As you’ll have gathered by now, this story packs a lot into its 111 minute runtime. Writers Alan W. Lear and Gary Russell don’t waste a moment in their script so each of the different ideas (as well as the world-building they necessitate) get just the right amount of time before moving the scene along. All the cliffhangers are pitched just right, and you can picture how each would translate well to screen had this been on TV. It may feel like fan-fiction that’s been adapted by Big Finish with their budget, and that’s because it is, but it’s surprising how well it works.

It’s hard to do justice by Minuet in Hell in prose. It’s a bizarrely exploitative schlock-fest, with some fan-service character pairings, and weird quasi-satanic imagery that somehow only enhances the oddly-prophetic political satire. If that sounds like a nonsensical summary, then just try listening to the thing and you’ll see that every word was accurate.

Actually yes, do go listen to this one. I’d be hard-pressed to argue that it’s an all time great Doctor Who audio story, but there’s no dispute that this is a truly unique entry to the franchise’s vast canon. Minuet in Hell can only be described as An Experience, so get hold of a copy and give it a try. It’s Doctor Who as a cheap B-Movie, and while far from perfect it makes for a thoroughly entertaining time.

Originally released in April 2001, Doctor Who: Minuet in Hell is available to purchase on download via the Big Finish website.

“Moo” is the pseudonym used by this Doctor Who fan. He can usually be found procrastinating by thinking about Doctor Who. Follow him on Twitter @z_p_moo for more of his unusual takes, but do so at your own risk.


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