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164 'Minuet in Hell'

CD adventure released April 2001, 4 episodes

Writer: Alan W Lear and Gary Russell
Director: Nicholas Briggs

Roots: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Becky Lee, the demon Pickering uses one of vampire-Willow's catch phrases "Bored now!"), Kolchak the Night Stalker (Becky Lee's surname), Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter novels, particularly The Silence of the Lambs (Pickering even name checks Lecter). The real Hell Fire Club was founded circa 1755 by Sir Francis Dashwood. Charley's 'Queen of Hell' costume resembles Emma Peel's 'Queen of Sin' outfit in The Avengers episode 'A Touch of Brimstone', also featuring a modern day Hell Fire Club. Crane quotes Descartes ('Cogito Ergo Sum') and compares the Doctor to Buck Rogers. Dashwood quotes Ecclesiastes ('to everything there is a season...') paraphrases the beatitudes ('Blessed are...') and sings his 'campaign' song to the tune of a "Minuet in A Major" by Luigi Boccherini. The Brigadier mentions the British government's 'Doomwatch think-tanks' and quotes from King Lear Act 3, scene 2 ('til you have broke the steeples, drown'd the cocks'). The notion of demons fleeing one body to seek out another immediately after comes from the Bible. The inventors of the Transessential Mark 5 may be a reference to Professor Popkiss and Dr Beaker, the scientists who built Supercar. Dante's Inferno (Malebolge is the eighth circle of Hell.)

Intertextuality: Adapted from the Audio Visuals story 'Minuet in Hell'. The Psionovores were created by Alan W Lear for his earlier AudioVisuals tale 'Cloud of Fear'. The companion 'Sam' name-checked by Crane is, likely, Samantha Jones, the eighth Doctor's first companion from BBC Book's eighth Doctor adventures.

Goofs: Using our current technology the address the Brigadier types would not register as invalid until he got an error message back. (It doesn't even go through even though it was properly formatted). The exchange of information online is instantaneous (this is, however, a narrative indulgence).

When Marchosias reverts to Pickering his chainsaw disappears [it's part of the plasma projection the psionovore creates, thus vanishing with the illusion].

The question of the Doctor's identity could be established by checking his pulses, but of course no one thinks of that...

Technobabble: The 'Psi859 Psionic Matrix Facsimile Regenerator' is used to store minds in 'Single molecular microcircuitry' from which they can be recorded on 'megagig quantum CD ROMs'. It's similar to the British built 'Popplewell-Beaker Transessential Mark 5' After tampering with it, the Doctor turns the device into a 'directional etheric locator matrix with wide-band pick up and smart base selective database linked to the quantum CD memory store'.

Fashion Victims: Dashwood's electric blue suit. Charley gets three costume changes - a 'negligee', an eighteenth-century courtesan's gown and wig, and 'costume 17', a spiked, red leather outfit as 'The Queen of Hell'.

Double Entendres: 'You may call me Superior Mistress.'

'You sit on the bed. I'll take it in easy stages.'

'Or perhaps there is no plot?'

'Have you been acting sanely?'

'Here I am - eight foot of hot, sweaty demon...'

The name Brigham Elijah Dashwood Laboratory for Alternative Mentalities of course spells BEDLAM.

Dialogue Disasters: 'Good call, girlfriend.'

'Have her segregated from the rest.'

'Sprinkle it on him and poof! He's gone.'

'You're an Olympic standard dork, Marchosias.'

Dialogue Triumphs: 'Strikes me, Britain turns out lot of weird things.'

The demon Pickering to Charley: 'Let's see... I smash doors down, I enter young ladies' bedrooms, I want to kill you... nope, I guess I'm not him!'

'You're going to cut out my brain! That's not really for my own good, is it?'

Continuity: This story begins with the Doctor intending to visit Grace Holloway in the USA.

In order to release Ramsay back into the Vortex, the Doctor and Charley take the TARDIS to its epicentre, where calamity demands that they perform an emergency materialisation. When this occurs in an alleyway in Malebolgia, the Doctor's mind is merged with that of Gideon Crane, a British journalist from the London Torch, in Malebolgia to cover the secession.

Few clues are given as to where Malebolgia is located - there is a line about Maryland but the accents are much more 'deep south' such as Mississippi and Alabama. Mountains appear in the state (Dashwood mentions them 'on the horizon'). Pickering refers to The National Enquirer, Becky Lee mentions Snickers bars, and the Brigadier mentions media mogul Ted Turner. Air pollution has caused the death of local bats.

Brigham Dashwood claims to be descended from Sir Francis Dashwood, the founder of the original Hell Fire Club, his family having reached the United States sometime during the eighteenth century (see: 'Roots'). He runs the Hell Fire Club, the neighbouring asylum, and the local television station WBED, from which he preached as a televangelist. Previous operations for the asylum were in Des Moines.

Becky Lee Kowalczyck comes from Los Angeles and is a member of the Order of Saint Peter, a secret organisation dedicated to seek out and eradicate supernatural evil, especially vampires. The order was founded in Europe in the sixteenth century, but made its way to the United States shortly after the last European vampire was tracked there from Poland in 1976. The US branch (which may only consist of Becky Lee) was established shortly afterwards by one of the priests, who later 'founded' Becky Lee herself. Becky Lee rides a bike and via a 'mental technique' can call on St Peter to mentally turn her opponent's fear against them.

Charley sees a television for the first time. She once read Dracula and knows a fair bit about the original Hell Fire Club. She has a brooch with her name on it.

Psionovores are cosmic extra-dimensional parasites which inhabit ionised clouds of comet-generated dust. Incredibly advanced technologically (they spent 'years' designing and providing Dashwood with his various equipment), they are able to weave their energy patterns into 'a spurious semblance of solidity' and therefore can adopt any form at will. Psionovores feed off 'negative neuronic emissions' of sentient beings including fear, pain, anxiety and jealousy. The group in this story were attracted by the Hell Fire Club, Marchosias being a manifestation of their gestalt.

The Brigadier is still performing surveillance work despite his retirement; he adopts the title of 'Mister' for this story. His contact's email address is, suggesting that it is UNIT related (although seems to have the cunning front of an organisation for helping greyhounds). He has a good knowledge of the book of David. He always meant to buy Doris a motorbike.

According to Crane, the Doctor left Gallifrey due to 'some misplaced revolutionary fervour'. He doesn't share a proper symbiotic nuclei with the TARDIS as it was stolen and therefore not assigned to him. Hell is mentioned in the legends of Gallifrey. Sulphur deposits and scorching is evidence of demonic manifestation. The Doctor uses the 'contact' method (see: Links) to bring Crane up to play with his knowledge - the trouble with this, allegedly, is that it increases the rate of degeneration in [presumably Crane's?] memory.

At the end of this adventure the Doctor suggests he and Charley visit the Croesus Nebula, a place of relative calm in the Universe.

Links: All of the previous Big Finish McGann stories, especially 'Storm Warning', plus 'Doctor Who' (Grace, 'Who Am I?'). 'The Three Doctors' ('Contact!'). The Brigadier says 'I've dealt with demons before you know' ('The Dæmons', 'Battlefield'). Crane and the Doctor bay at the moon (Loup-Garoux). Among the topics Crane tests the Doctor with are the names of his companions ('Charley, Sam, Ace, Evelyn, Nyssa, Romana, Sarah-Jane, Jamie, Polly, Ian, Barbara and Susan... dear, dear Susan') the departure of Victoria Waterfield, the Blinovitch Limitation Effect (which must have been a giveaway) and the events of 'Loups Garoux'.

Untelevised Adventures: The Doctor in a flashback sequence says he once warned Abraham Lincoln not to go to the theatre (though perhaps not for the most obvious reason). Charley and the Doctor have been to 'other planets, other worlds' since leaving Venice.

Future History: Malebolgia is the 51st state of the USA, and continues its existence. Laser scalpels are in use (see: 'The Land of the Dead').

Location: Malebolgia, the United States of America early in the 21st century. It is a harvest moon.

The Bottom Line: 'I understand now! Everyone in the universe is the Doctor, except me!'

Oh, what fun! McGann's first Big Finish season closes on a big (and long!) story with a great script and the Brigadier on top form. Despite an American and a Canadian in the cast some dodgy accents feature, but with an imaginative setting and some stand-out scenes (Marchosias using Becky-Lee's powers to kill Pargeter, Crane 'testing' the Doctor's memories, the Brigadier's 'collapse'), 'Minuet' is hellishly good. If the 'join' sometimes shows between the story's two authors, it doesn't really matter. It's a shame the (real) Doctor isn't in it more, but it would be a treat to hear Gideon again.


With 'Minuet in Hell', the Brigadier finally meets the Doctor in all eight of his present incarnations, but not necessarily in order. Chronologically, his first encounters with the first five incarnation of the Doctor are as follows: second Doctor ('The Web of Fear'), third Doctor ('Spearhead from Space'), fourth Doctor ('Planet of the Spiders'/'Robot), fifth Doctor ('Mawdryn Undead'), and the first Doctor ('The Five Doctors' - they don't meet face to face in 'The Three Doctors'). The next reunion is with the seventh Doctor ('Battlefield), while with the sixth Doctor the Brigadier's first encounter is now 'The Spectre of Lanyon Moor' ('Dimensions in Time' has the Brigadier still working for UNIT) and, most recently, the eighth Doctor in this story.

Naturally, the Doctor's first meeting with the Brigadier is 'The Five Doctors' and thereafter pretty much as above, providing the two media covered are television and audio only.

Does the Brig know the order of the Doctors?

He knows second, third and fourth are in that order, but he doesn't necessarily know that the second is the second (possibly finds this out in Three Doctors where he learns of another Doctor). In Mawdryn Undead, he meets another one, and guesses he's the next in order. In The Five Doctors when he's comparing notes with Susan, Tegan and Sarah, he gets it all straight, possibly.

Insert untelevised story where he meets the sixth.

In Battlefield he meets the seventh, and thinks, having met the others, that seventh is later than others.

Spectre - Meets sixth who he thinks is before seven, and that's all that's needed.

OR, when the Doctor asks (did he ask?) the Brigadier either thinks he forgot (he's a busy Time Lord) and tells him, or that he's an earlier Doctor and tells him.

OR if the Brig just blurts it out, he's a happily married guy, and wants others to know this. ;)

We're happy to let Lars Pearson work out the novel continuity from here!

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