We’re back, with another Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama review! This week, we’re listening to Night of the Whisper, the Ninth Doctor’s contribution to the Fiftieth Anniversary series, Destiny of the Doctor, written by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright, and read by Nicholas Briggs and John Schwab. Let’s get started!
Spoilers ahead for anyone who has not listened to this audio drama!
It’s the 23rd century on the environment-domed colony of New Vegas…and Rose Tyler is a waitress. It sounded like fun when the TARDIS landed, but that was then—now, she’s not happy with how the Doctor’s plan has worked out. Yet, here she is, working for a werewolf named Cyrus Wolfsbane in his Full Moon Nightclub. And that’s only the beginning, as someone is raiding the club!
A tall man in a cape and a mask invades the club, whispering about justice being served. It’s a vigilante, recently arrived in New Vegas, known as the Whisper. Rose flees the club in the chaos, and runs into Jack Harkness, who stops her from going back to intervene as the police arrive—but then they are picked up by the police. Jack is released on the basis of his faked credentials—he is temporarily working as a reporter from the Daily Galaxy–but Rose is taken in for questioning. Jack lingers long enough to see the Whisper leave the scene.
Rose is questioned by police commissioner James McNeil, who is much more interested in her identity and history than in her involvement with the Whisper. Rose has no documented history of her travels, which makes McNeil suspicious. However, she is saved by the appearance of the Doctor, who claims to be Inspector George Dixon from New New New Scotland Yard on Earth, here to investigate the Whisper. He provides a digital record for Rose, which does not entirely satisfy McNeil, but silences him; the Doctor takes custody of Rose, and gets her out of the precinct. Outside, he comments on the weather; it’s raining, but it is never supposed to do so under the dome. Wolfsbane intercepts them and offers Rose a ride back to the nightclub. Meanwhile, at the offices of the Daily Galaxy, Jack is researching the Whisper and his victims. He is interrupted by a woman named Daisy Hewett, who has a strange story; she wants him to investigate the disappearance of her best friend, Lillian Marsh, who vanished shortly after the death of her husband. Daisy attributes the disappearance to Wolfsbane, for whom Lillian’s husband worked. Jack at first pushes her away, but then becomes intrigued.
Wolfsbane tells Rose he is promoting her to Senior Waitress in the private lounge area of the nightclub, because he is watching out for her—in fact, he is just watching her, via monitors. He suspects something is up with her, as the police let her go. He watches her meet up with the Doctor; the Doctor fakes a robbery with Rose, to attract the Whisper. The Whisper arrives, but dodges the Doctor in favor of killing a graffiti artist across the street, and then flees again. The Doctor and Rose borrow a hoverbike to go after him. While chasing the Whisper, the Doctor tells Rose that the police are at a loss for dealing with the Whisper; the vigilante has gone from stopping major crime to killing even petty criminals, causing far more trouble than it stops—but the press love him.
They fail to catch him, but when they are forced to stop, they see an electronic billboard with a strange display. The Eleventh Doctor (although he doesn’t name himself as such) appears, and delivers a message to the Ninth Doctor, telling him that McNeil must live, and will eventually be the mayor of New Vegas. (Rose is left confused, as she does not yet know anything about regeneration.) Wolfsbane arrives and pursues them as they chase the Whisper, who escapes. They evade Wolfsbane, but end up inside the police precinct. The Doctor grabs several devices and constructs a tracker for the Whisper. McNeil confronts them, but the Doctor brushes him off.
Jack and Daisy sneak into Wolfsbane’s office and check his security records. They find video of Lillian confronting Wolfsbane about her husband’s death. The video shows that Wolfsbane had Lillian killed by dumping her outside the atmosphere dome; he also killed her husband, and sabotaged the atmosphere systems (later he will say that he changed the atmosphere to send a message to the mayor regarding the true power in New Vegas). Jack calls the Doctor and updates him, but is interrupted. Daisy takes the opportunity to drug Jack, knocking him out.
The Doctor and Rose track the Whisper to its lair, in a residential neighborhood. He finds the name “McNeil” on the house, and rushes in to find the Whisper about to kill McNeil. He and Rose intervene, saving McNeil; the Doctor is about to attack the Whisper, when McNeil stops him. The Whisper is revealed to be Lillian…who is McNeil’s daughter. McNeil then saves Rose from the Whisper, which flees the house.
McNeil admits that he was behind the situation. He and Lillian had fought over her marriage to Ralph Marsh, who worked for Wolfsbane; McNeil had been working on taking down Wolfsbane. However, Lillian had come back to McNeil from the murder attempt, but changed. She had been possessed by a Star Marshal, an electronic law enforcement agent from an alien collective outside the Earth Empire. The Marshal had previously crashed on the moon; wounded, it found the dying Lillian and merged with her. When the mixed organism asked McNeil for instructions, he gave it more than that: he gave it the personality of a vigilante, and sent it against Wolfsbane—but he never anticipated that it would turn on every form of crime. To the Whisper’s defective thinking, everyone is guilty of something—and everyone must pay with death. And, worse: it intends to serve justice on everyone at once, by shutting down the containment dome.
Jack awakens in Wolfsbane’s custody; Daisy has turned him in. She is revealed to be working for Wolfsbane. Wolfsbane wants to get to the Doctor, but more than that, he wants to get to the Whisper. He promises to kill Jack after he gets information from him…but Daisy lets slip that they are not at the nightclub, but at the atmospheric control center. And none of them know that the Whisper is on its way.
The Whisper arrives, and attacks Wolfsbane’s men. McNeil, the Doctor, and Rose also arrive, and find the gates already opened, and the guards down—the Whisper isn’t just killing, but draining the life force of its victims to keep itself alive. The Doctor and Rose go in, but the Doctor warns McNeil to stay outside, remembering the Eleventh Doctor’s warning. Wolfsbane uses Daisy as a shield, and recognizes Lillian’s corpse. Daisy escapes and runs, but is killed by the Whisper. It grabs Wolfsbane, but the Doctor intervenes, sending Rose to free Jack. The Whisper begins cycling down the dome’s generators. McNeil admits his own wrong, and tries to talk the Whisper down with the Doctor’s help. Wolfsbane takes advantage of the opportunity to strike the Whisper, breaking something vital inside it. He escapes, leaving the Whisper to die in McNeil’s arms. While the Doctor, Rose, and Jack regroup, McNeil slips out to chase down Wolfsbane.
The Doctor goes after him, intent on keeping him alive, and finds him cornering Wolfsbane on a gantry over a drop. The Doctor tries to stop him from murdering Wolfsbane, begging him to bring Wolfsbane to justice instead. McNeil nearly falls with Wolfsbane, but the Doctor catches McNeil and halts his fall. McNeil demands to fall and take Wolfsbane with him. Wolfsbane drags the Doctor over—and Rose catches the Doctor’s hand. Wolfsbane loses his grip on McNeil and falls to his death.
As the four survivors regroup, the police arrive. McNeil orders them to arrest him for collaborating with the Whisper, and as an accessory to murder. However, it seems the timeline is intact—and one day, McNeil will still be mayor.
This story is notable for being the first audio drama to feature the Ninth Doctor, and the first to occur during Series One of the revived series. To date there are still only a handful of stories that involve the Ninth Doctor, due mostly to Christopher Eccleston’s consistent refusal to return to the role, but also to Big Finish’s still-limited collection of new series audios. Also notably, this story is not read by any of the television actors from the Ninth Doctor era, but by Nicholas Briggs. He does an admirable job—as well he should, as he has a long history of covering a variety of characters in the audios—and he covers fairly well for the Ninth Doctor here. I feel that the supplementary voice actor, John Schwab, is wasted here—his voice is a dead ringer for Jack Harkness, and that’s clearly the role he should have played, but instead he plays Police Commissioner McNeil. It’s convincing enough that I caught myself a few times thinking that McNeil’s lines were Jack’s. This story is also the longest of the Destiny of the Doctor entries, at nearly eighty minutes.
This story must occur between The Doctor Dances and Bad Wolf, as demonstrated by Jack’s presence with Rose and the Doctor; it must also occur after Boom Town, as Rose refers to having visited Raxicoricofallapatorious and Woman Wept. Rose, as well, does not know about regeneration yet, and thus misses the fact that the message is from a future version of the Doctor, though it is not lost on the Doctor himself. Again, the Eleventh Doctor is not named as such, and in this case only context makes it clear that he is a future incarnation—he refers to breaking laws of time to communicate with his past self. He mentions Amy Pond in the past tense, indicating that he is speaking from a time after her departure in The Angels Take Manhattan. Also consistent with Series One, there is a Bad Wolf reference; Wolfsbane says that it is thanks to Bad Wolf Holdings that he is owner of the atmospheric-control consortium. Unlike Series One, this story takes place away from Earth; every episode took place on or near Earth. At the end, Jack, the Doctor, and Rose discuss visiting other worlds.
The entire story is a reference to classic Batman stories, with the Whisper (though clearly the villain) using many of the same tricks that Batman uses. Rose even makes a Batman reference at one point, commenting that the Whisper’s lair is “not exactly Wayne Manor”. As such, the pacing of the story is very much like a Batman adventure, as is the environment—with its rain and its organized crime and the steam-filled atmospheric works, New Vegas may as well be Gotham City. It sounds strange on paper; but for the Ninth Doctor, it works, especially with Jack and Rose along for the ride. Supporting the reference, you have a highly-involved police commissioner, and a gimmicky secondary villain in the form of Wolfsbane (who, though not directly stated to be a werewolf, is so clearly described as one that there is no mistaking it—he is even called a “wolf man” at one point). It’s probably for the sake of this motif that the TARDIS is hardly even mentioned, let alone seen—in this case, it would almost break the immersion.
There aren’t really many references that I haven’t already mentioned; but there are a few. The Doctor mentions the Judoon (Smith and Jones, et al.), which confuses Rose, as she has never encountered them. Jack acknowledges that the Doctor confiscated his sonic blaster (The Doctor Dances), but he has a spare (and we know from The Long Game that he’s creepily good at hiding them…). The Doctor uses his “stupid apes” line, which originated in Father’s Day; also he uses his “Fantastic!” catchphrase immediately after receiving the message from his future self, but Rose thinks that it’s the first time he ever used it without at least some enthusiasm. He claims to have been in a film with—and lost a game of chess to—Humphrey Bogart, but this adventure occurred offscreen.
Overall, I think this story is—to borrow a catchphrase—“fantastic!” Nine episodes into Destiny of the Doctor, this is my favorite so far. In part, that’s because I’m an unabashed fan of noir fiction and detective stories, and this story is gleefully cast in that style [all it’s missing is a detective voiceover]. As well, anything new with the Ninth Doctor is well worth my time, I think; I hold out hope that someday Big Finish will manage to persuade Christopher Eccleston to resume the role. If anyone can, it’s that company. In the meantime, this story is a good time in every sense, and I highly recommend it.
Next time: We’re getting close to the end! We’ll look at the Tenth Doctor in Death’s Deal; and on Monday, we’ll continue the Main Range with Minuet in Hell. See you there!
All audio dramas featured in this series may be purchased from Big Finish Productions; link to this story’s purchase page is below. This and many other selections may also be found on Spotify and Google Play.