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134a 'Phantasmagoria'

CD and audio cassette adventure released October 1999, 4 episodes

Writer: Mark Gattis
Director: Nicholas Briggs

Roots: The League of Gentlemen - the idea came from an Edinburgh Festival sketch. Plunket and McLean and Dick Turpin ('gentlemen of the road') and possibly even the Blackadder the Third episode 'Amy and Amiability' (cross dressing highwaymen), Meatloaf/Jim Steinman ("Two out of three ain't bad"), the Gabriel Ratchets are winged hounds of British folklore, 'Ring-a-Rosie' is sung by children in the street during episode 3. Martin Luther ("Give me wine, women and song"). The 'cricket rules' routine recalls a similar excised scene from 'Black Orchid'.

Goofs: When Hannah is offered the brandy to settle her nerves she sips it and starts talking without actually swallowing or allowing appreciable time to swallow [alien physiology?].

When Lovemore shoots Ned Cotton there is no reaction from a nearby horse to the sound of gunfire [perhaps its Lovemore's horse, accustomed to the noise?]

'Hannah' disguises 'herself' as a man in order to work undercover in tracking down Valentine, but why adopt the guise of "the most wanted man in London"? - and what does she do with the money?

Double Entendres: "A pretty pass we've come to when two fellows can't ride the King's road unmolested"

"Poltrott here gave me your particulars"

Fashion Victims: All those fops and dandies with their wigs and rouged faces. Old maid was never a more apt card game. Turlough's school uniform draws "unwarranted attention" (whatever that could mean).

Dialogue Disasters: Turlough's awful pun "It wouldn't be cricket, would it?"

Dialogue Triumphs: "Hello, I've come to read the meter"

"Oh, if you only knew how long - the endless empty years, waiting, waiting... to escape the narrow confines of this world; to split asunder the coffin of my existence and once more tread among the stars."

Continuity: The Doctor owns a 1928 edition of Wisden's Almanac, possibly from the same room in which he found his cricket whites ('Castrovalva'). In his pockets he carries a cricket ball ('Four to Doomsday') and a ball of string. Along with many great works on spiritualism, Cheapside's library also contains a detailed history of the region 'since the Conquest'. The Doctor and Turlough arrive, become separated in the space of minutes and, next morning, separately tuck into large breakfasts. Latent psychic ability (the Doctor assumes Halliwell has this and implies he also possesses it) allows one to 'receive' the transmissions of [psychic] manifestations. The Doctor has seen (and was much impressed by) Type 70 TARDISes [possibly Vansell's one in 'The Sirens of Time']. He considers cricket 'the greatest game in the Universe'. Valentine doesn't recognise a cricket ball, these not being in common use yet. Sir Nikolas Valentine is the alias for the homicidal alien psychopath Karthok of Daedalus, currently at large (the knighthood however is genuine, having been received after he aided the king during the 1680s). When his biomechanical spaceship became stranded on Earth he set about restoring it using matter from human brains (in intermittent, thirty-year cycles). His playing cards record potential biodata from their handlers, and by storing this can later lead Valentine to his future victim. The card then attracts the spirits of former victims toward the victim, who usually dies of shock. He doesn't know how to destroy them (they may be burned), but can handle them with gloves.

Links: 'Castrovalva' and 'Four to Doomsday' (see above) 'The Sirens of Time' (Type 70 TARDISes), 'Mawdryn Undead' (Turlough enjoyed studying history at Brendan).

Location: London, England, the 8th, 9th and 10th of March 1702.

The Bottom Line: "'Od's Fish!"

Noisy, spooky and evocative with satanic gamblers, the air full of phantoms and men burning like candles in the street, it's a delicious period horror until Part Four, when the inevitable SF spoils all the fun.

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