By Marc Platt
Released May 2001
In Rio De Janeiro, the Doctor and Turlough are enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes of carnival. It’s a fun introduction that showcases the Fifth Doctor’s social awkwardness as a scantily clad dancer chats him up and Turlough urges him on. In these Big Finish adventures, Davison has developed a very charismatic and somewhat professorial take on the Doctor that hints at Patrick Troughton’s scatter-brained mastermind while adding some elements of the modern English gentleman.
The pairing of the Doctor with Turlough on screen, while under-developed, was one of the high points of the Davison era for me. The Doctor-companion routine had become quite staid in 1983 and introducing a character who sought to kill the Doctor only to have him change his mind and flit about time and space instead is either incredibly poor or very invigorating. I like to think that the Doctor could see something of the rebel in Turlough and respected it as a kind of mirror to his own personality. Whereas the Doctor hides his darker nature with a veneer of morality and good manners, Turlough flaunts it openly as a brash youth who is just too good for school. This quality in Turlough’s character is not only entertained in Loups Garoux, it is picked up as part of the story. It is said that Turlough has ‘something of the wolf in him,’ and while that may be true, that scares him. While he puts on a cool and snide facade, deep down Turlough is saddened that anyone who gets close to him seems to suffer. It’s moments like this that I dearly wish had made it on screen.
Using the werewolf myth and adding it to a cyberpunk setting, the Doctor finds himself wrapped up in the wild exodus of the austere Ileana de Santos, fearing the pursuit of ‘the Gray One’ whose breath she can feel on her neck as he draws closer. Ileana is portrayed as a sophisticated and proud woman, but also as a sad outcast running from her fate, trying to hold onto what is hers. The Doctor is deeply moved by her plight and identifies with her as well, which unfortunately Ileana thinks of as a romantic advance. The Doctor of course is merely doing the right thing as any gentleman would, and finds himself in the middle of an ancient struggle when the Gray One comes calling.
The narrative of Loups-Garoux switches out occasionally to the character of Rosa, a hot-blooded young woman on a bold mission. She’s a marvelous addition to the script and feels like a missed opportunity as a companion. But perhaps less is more in this case. I’m also tickled by the scene in which she encourages Turlough to bunk with her for the night, coyly calling him ‘yerpie boy’ as she beckons.
The story has a wealth of rich characters, exciting sequences and also new situations for the Doctor and Turlough to more fully flesh out their parts (a job started in Phantasnagorica), but it also has one of my favorite staples of the Troughton era, food acting. I’m not sure what it is, but whenever there was a scene in which the Second Doctor and Jamie ate, I grew more fond of them. Whether it was a plate of sandwiches, machine-made food on a space rocket or a hasty cup of coffee, it made them seem more real. The sequence where Turlough questionably tries to eat his questionable burger smothered in tomato sauce is very touching to me for that reason. It makes the experience more real somehow and also provides fuel for the Doctor’s quip later on.
Loups Garoux is like one of those lost New Adventures novels that Virgin published back in the day. Author Marc Platt is economical with his use of the cyberpunk elements, restricting them to changes in geography and technology that is easily acceptable, such as the ident process that easily tags both Turlough and the Doctor as outsiders or the monetary system. It’s all so stylishly done that the setting comes off as exotic and smart.
Marc Platt is one of the best writers of Classic Doctor Who in the 1980’s. His 1989 story Ghost Light was of course adapted from an earlier story about the Doctor returning home to Gallifrey (later expanded into the novel Lungbarrow). Both are overly ambitious grand tales that can lose focus from characters to far out ideas, but that is not the case with Loups Garoux where the script is a marvelous blend of inspired concepts and sparkling characters (along with some fine dialog). I am usually able to appreciate the Big Finish audio adventures for what they are, but in this instance I so want to see the story as a televised serial. Perhaps Platt can be invited to write for the BBC Wales series sometime so he can show them how it’s done. In the meantime I’m happy for his output here.