‘The Barnacled Baby’
Stranded in Victorian London, a Zygon becomes the centerpiece of a seedy freak show. Weak and confused, the creature becomes coddled by showman Jethro’s daughter, in a state of deranged grief over the loss of her stillborn child. Nick-named Bobby, the Zygon is seen only as an opportunity for monetary gain. A member of high society attempts to purchase the oddity from Jethro with no luck.
Greatly influenced by the plight of Joseph Merrick (aka the Elephant Man), the Zygon named Demeris survives the indignities heaped upon him by the dregs of humanity. Unlike Merrick, however, the Zygon vainly attempts to contact his people via a damaged communication device. Needing lactic fluid from a Sarasen, ‘Bobby’ is breast-fed by Doris in one of the weirdest and most disturbing moments I have ever encountered.
Doris’ beau Toby (played by author Anthony Keetch), is horrified to find that his love has fallen so far into madness. He also discovered that his stillborn child has been reshaped into another attraction, the cadaver sewn to the bottom half of a fish. Toby also sees an opportunity to gain substantial revenue from stealing both Doris and the Barnacled Baby from Jethro and hitting the road. Unknown to everyone, Demeris’ strength is returning, but he realizes that he must choose his moment of liberation carefully. A visit from Queen Victoria produces the ideal moment… but not in a way that anyone could predict.
The Barnacled Baby is a dark and twisted story of human depravity and the horror of everyday suffering and desperation. The Zygon himself is surrounded by such spine-tingling characters that when he finally shows his hand, it’s the pinnacle of the gory tale.
On screen, the Zygons remain one of the spookiest and most striking of Doctor Who monsters, despite having only appeared once. One may think that their ability to shape-shift would form the backbone of this story, but it is rather their monstrous appearance and dedication to dominate all others that marks the Zygons here.
Barnacled Baby is one of several audio releases by BBV, a production company headed by Bill Baggs that followed the Doctor Who legacy after Survival aired in 1989. From video production as grand as the Zero Imperative that starred almost every living actor and actress to ever work in Who to small audio projects such as this, BBV was an innovative and bold company that paved the way to the future. By taking public domain monsters such as the Autons, Krynoid and Wirrn, BBV was able to further develop the mythology of Doctor Who without stepping on any very prominent legal toes.
Author Anthony Keetch has some lovely behind the scenes images at his personal site along with samples.
The cast and crew are top notch and the script is polished. Alongside the regular cast members is Deborah Watling (one time companion Victoria) playing the Queen and other character parts and she’s a real treasure.
Obtaining a copy of this story is not easy by any stretch, but Bill Baggs has been selling reference copies of the deleted audio catalog on ebay here. If you have a strong stomach and are interested in a more horrific and grim adaptation of the Doctor Who universe, it’s worth listening to.
It can also be ordered from Mike’s Comics.