Doctor Who Audio Book Review: #23 – Project: Twilight

Written By: Cavan Scott & Mark Wright
Directed By: Gary Russell
Featuring: Sixth Doctor and Evelyn
Release Date: August 2001

Big Finish Summary:
In the renovated docklands of South East London, and on the bank of the river Thames, the doors of the Dusk are open for business. Bets are called, cards are dealt and roulette wheels spun. As fortunes are won and lost, an inhuman killer stalks the local avenues and alleyways – a killer with a taste for human flesh.

Is there more to casino owner Reggie ‘The Gent’ Mead or is he just a common gangster? What secrets are hidden in the bowels of the Dusk? And what connection does the apparently sleazy Bermondsey casino have to a long-buried government initiative known as Project: Twilight?

The Doctor must form uneasy alliances where the line between friend and enemy is blurred, playing games of chance…

But are the stakes too high?

A tight narrative, great pacing, and some interesting character development causing cracks in the relationship between the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn, makes this audio book one of the best in the series to date.

‘Project: Twilight’ is the latest audio book story to feature the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Evelyn Smythe (the late Maggie Stables), a partnership that has been my favourite from this Big Finish audio series. The connection and dialogue between the two have been written very well, and it has been a revelation to see what Colin Baker’s Doctor could do and be with good scripts, as most of his tenure on the TV series in the 80s was heavily criticised. This story continues to develop the relationship between his Doctor and Evelyn, and it takes a turn that can only benefit both characters going forward. The dialogue between the pair in the first part, when bickering over why the Doctor chooses a Chinese take-away in Bermondsey, London as having his favourite food, is probably the funniest part of this episode as the flow and back-and-forth is very natural. The turning point is when the Doctor realises how much danger he has dragged himself and Evelyn into, and rather than giving her the facts, he chooses to ‘protect’ her from the truth by withholding information. This backfires, as it is her ignorance of the situation that puts her in mortal danger. Evelyn understandably feels betrayed and confused as to why the Doctor doesn’t tell her what is going on, and their confrontation is powerful and in stark contrast to their conversations in previous stories. At this moment, listeners and Evelyn are reminded how alien the Doctor is, and is acted out very well by both Baker and Stables. By the close, the threat has been thwarted but the tension between the pair can still be sensed, and it will be interesting to see how the writers use this going forward. As a whole, characterisation in this story was written very well, not just from the leads, but from the supporting cast, including the Forge and their vampiric creations.

Vampire-like creatures have been used sparingly throughout the history of Doctor Who, and usually are revealed to be the result of alien activities, such as the Saturnynians in ‘The Vampires of Venice’, or from the far future, such as the Haemovores in ‘The Curse of Fenric’. The vampiric creatures in ‘Project: Twilight’, on the other hand, were the result of human experimentation, and this backstory makes these creatures feel more in line with the Gothic origins of the idea of a vampire. The crumbling British Empire decided to experiment on their own to create super-soldiers, in order for them to defeat the Kaiser in the First World War, with The Forge, a shadowy organisation, the ones to initiate the process. This act of playing God in essence, can be traced back to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. As was the case with the creation in that text, the act of playing God actually brought more suffering to the creature. In ‘Project: Twilight’, the minor character of Nathaniel was transformed into a vampiric super-soldier, but lost his mind through the pain of going out in the sun and getting badly burned. When Evelyn and Cassie, a character I will get on to shortly, encounters Nathaniel, he is feral and aggressive in nature and has created a nest out of torn apart animal carcasses. He is treated as a monster, but he is actually just another victim of the Forge and their experimentation. These Gothic tones compliment the location of the story well, as it mostly takes place in a casino and its dank surrounding alleyways in South East London. Vampiric creatures, or anything that is covered by the definition of the Gothic or Uncanny, can be very hit-and-miss in Doctor Who, owing to the show’s need to incorporate science-fiction elements to explain their presence, but in ‘Project: Twilight’, the explanation perfectly suits the narrative and the tone of the story.

This story, unlike many of the Big Finish audio adventures that have gone before it, feels like the start of a new storyline that will span multiple stories. Cassie, a waitress at the Dusk casino, is Evelyn’s main ally during the events of this story – I loved the almost motherly relationship Evelyn has with her, especially when Cassie breaks down over fears that the Forge will kill her young son. When she is turned into a vampiric creature and is forced to be dropped off by the Doctor and Evelyn in a snowy wasteland that sees little sunlight, the emotional goodbye between the pair feels justified. Listeners can expect Cassie to appear in the future however, as the close of the story provides a prime opportunity for a follow-on. Nimrod, the head of the Forge who was previously the doctor performing the human experiments, is a menacing presence who, for the most part, is just out of sight outside the building, which makes him all the more unsettling. He survives the destruction of the casino at the climax of the story, and vows to find Cassie and bring her back under the control of the Forge. These two characters, plus the developing friendship and maternal instincts Evelyn has for Cassie, a great character choice for the former, in my opinion, shows a follow-on could happen easily.

‘Project: Twilight’ is a terrific episode from start to finish. The light mood brought by the great back-and-forth between the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn descends into a pit of danger, secrets and human experimentation, one which threatens to create huge cracks in their relationship. At a mere ninety minutes, the pacing is brisk and each scene feels important to the plot and characterisation, creating a race against time that looks set to continue in a follow-up story. This is definitely one to recommend to new listeners, as it is a great showcase of the potential of audio-based Doctor Who adventures.

Star Rating: 5/5

‘Project: Twilight’ 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:

023. Doctor Who: Project: Twilight – Doctor Who – The Monthly Adventures – Big Finish

The next audio book in this series sees the Fifth Doctor and Peri arrive in Ancient Egypt during a time of great unrest – the Pharaoh of the Two Kingdoms has died, and the person first in line to ascend to Pharaoh is one the Doctor has never heard of. In the desert, a band of mercenaries decides that now is the time to strike at the heart of Egypt…

You can read my review of Audio Book #24 – ‘The Eye of the Scorpion’, very soon!

The Eye of the Scorpion cover (Big Finish, 2001)

Thank you for reading this post. If you enjoyed reading, please feel free to like, and subscribe to receive email notifications when new reviews are published. If you have any recommendations of audio books or Doctor Who related posts for my blog in the future, please leave a comment below.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.