Doctor Who Audio Book Review: #20 – Loups-Garoux

Written By: Marc Platt
Directed By: Gary Russell & Jason Haigh-Ellery
Release Date: May 2001
Featuring: Fifth Doctor and Turlough

Big Finish Summary:

Germany, 1589: the townspeople of Cologne pronounce a sentence of death on a mass-murderer who has stalked the countryside in the guise of a ferocious wolf.

Russia, 1812: retreating from Napoleon’s invading forces, a merchant’s daughter is rescued from bandits by a handsome partisan with a ravenous appetite.

Brazil, 2080: The Doctor and Turlough arrive for the Rio de Janeiro carnival.

Is wealthy heiress Ileana de Santos all that she seems? What sinister ailment afflicts her invalid son, tended by the mysterious Dr Hayashi? And who exactly is Rosa, engaged on a secret quest to fulfill the destiny of her extinct tribe?

Time is running out for Rosa, Ileana and the Doctor, as the fearsome shadow of an ancient werewolf moves ever closer…

The Fifth Doctor and Turlough encounter werewolves in futuristic Brazil in a middling story that is improved in flashes by its original ideas and decent characterisation.

Chronically, this is the first time werewolves are the main focus in a mainstream Doctor Who story, around five years before the TV episode “Tooth and Claw” was aired. Credit has to go to the writing team behind this story for not sticking with a traditional werewolf lore. It makes for an interesting twist when it appears that all humanoid beings seemingly have an ability to go through an ‘awakening’ and embrace their darker and feral nature. Several moments really piqued my interest and it is a shame that this idea was not taken as far as it could have been. What we end up with is a slightly predictable story where we know who the antagonist is going to be in the first fifteen minutes, but there is a frustrating wait until he truly becomes a threat in the story. It’s not a bad narrative by any means, but there were glimmers of something original and intriguing that wasn’t taken up.

An element that the writers did pretty well on making as good as it could be was the focus on Turlough (Mark Strickson) and his acceptance of all of his sides, good and bad. The character received a lukewarm reception from audiences when he was on the screen in the 80s, despite being one of the very few companions to attempt to bump off the Doctor (Peter Davison) on several occasions on the orders of the Black Guardian. Watching his character, I felt he was underused, as though the writers didn’t really know what to do with him. Here, his own “awakening”, where he finally sees his own dark shadow that has been part of him all along, actually allows him to open up and accept that some parts of him are dark, but that doesn’t have to control him. It is nicely done and serves as an explanation for his switch in mentality before his on-screen departure, which would have been set just after this story. His character also bounces well off Rosa (Sarah Gale), who is intriguing in her own way for being the last of her tribe and having the remnants of the Amazon rainforest in her brain, which also made for some pretty cool scenes. Peter Davison was okay I guess, had some nice moments and lines. I just never expect his character to really take centre stage. But overall, a couple of very wonky accents aside, this story pulls off characterisation well in a way that makes the story more interesting.

This story is set in Brazil in 2080, by which time virtually all of the Amazon rainforest had been destroyed, leaving behind a dust bowl that makes for bleak listening. This story is set during Carnival season so there is a bit of Latin music and culture at the start, but then becomes more connected to its time period. There is a sterile and barren feel to the settings in the story, as futuristic trains whizz through a wasteland, and there are mentions of the famous beaches becoming Shanty Towns. The sterile nature flows into the story as well, with even the cliffhangers at the end of episodes being calculated and designed for shock value instead of adding things. Between this, Rosa and her tribe and the rainforest in her head, and also the fact that the werewolves have embraced their own dark sides, the story attempts to make an environmental message I guess, but if it is then it gets bogged down by the focus on a slightly dull narrative. Like the werewolves, something interesting has been done here but it doesn’t feel like it went far enough.

“Loups-Garoux” sees the introduction of werewolves on Earth to the Doctor Who universe and the writers, to their credit, do something interesting with the idea. This, along with some good characterisation, helps to improve a story with a middling and unremarkable narrative that never seems to get into top gear.

Star Rating: 3/5

“Loups-Garoux” is available to listen to for free on Spotify or for £2.99 to download from the Big Finish site. The link to this audio book is below:

https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/doctor-who-loups-garoux-645

The next audio book in this series sees the mystery behind Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream” getting uncovered by the Seventh Doctor and Ace on the barren dust world Duchamp 331, but what events will lead to the painting’s destruction? You can read my review of Audio Book #21 – “Dust Breeding” – very soon!

Dust Breeding Cover (Big Finish, 2001)

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