The Book of Kells (2010)

2010 TOMS TARDIS AWARD WINNER

  • Best Eighth Doctor Adventure

The previous two Tamsin stories have been a bit mixed. I was starting to worry that the final Eighth Doctor series was going to be a huge disappointment. The Book of Kells is a story that is partly based on historical fact. Apparently the book went missing for 80 days and when it returned it had been changed. Anyway the story sees the return of the Middling Monk who appeared during the Hartnell years. The story is set in 1006 at the Abbey of Kells in Ireland. The Doctor and Tamsin are lured there by the trap the meddling monk.

The story spends a lot of time looking for the book of Kells that has been taken. Personally as nice as it was to have a history lesson it was finding out who the Monk was. It seemed like it was Brother Bernard (played by Jim Carter) but that rule of it’s never the most obvious thing never occurred to me. When it was obvious that Bernard wasn’t the monk the story moved on. There was a bit of a contrived speech when the Doctor gives the newer listeners a history lesson of the Doctor’s encounters with the monk before saying “I am the Doctor” before Bernard says “Who”. I did groan when I heard that. The story spends a bit more time with the ‘Who’s the monk?’ line.

The story itself is quit an interesting if not overly exciting one. It’s not dull by any means but compared to other stories it doesn’t quite have the action packed stuff that I would expect. However there was enough stuff to keep me hooked in. The very final bit was the best part of the entire thing. The meddling monk is working with/for Brother Lucianus. Not going to reveal the plot twist and I do mean twist. It shocked me and totally came out of left field. It does have a knock on effect on the rest of the series.

The characters are very strong in this episode. Brother Bernard as played by Jim Carter (currently in ITV drama Downton Abbey), is perhaps the best of all the guest stars. I think that Carter has a wonderful voice for radio and having heard him on Radio 5 plays such as Dirk Gentley, I think that his casting was perfect. Graeme Garden returns to the Doctor Who range as Abbott Thelomous. Garden previously appeared in the 2008 play Max Warp and to be honest he gives an enjoyable performance. Ryan Sampson is the first of two names to have appeared in TV Who and Big Finish Who. Sampson appeared in the 2008 adventure The Sontaran Stratagem and The Poison Sky. In this he plays Brother Patrick which was a good role. The second name is Terrance Hardiman who appeared alongside Matt Smith’s Doctor in The Beast Below. As King Sitric he seemed like a perfectly normal character and was good casting. As far as I am concerned he will always be the Demon Headmaster.

Something that has been pointed out is how this story was the first to be recorded but the third to go out. A bit like Peter Davison when Four to Doomsday was the first to be recorded but Castrovalva was the first to go out. This is the first time that I have really enjoyed the character. I thought that her humour was spot on and her relationship with the Doctor was just right as it wasn’t like the Doctor’s relationship with Lucie but it’s in the same ballpark. I hope that Nicky Wardley doesn’t leave at the end of the series because I think now she is starting to get into her stride.

The Book of Kells is a good story. It’s the best o the series so far but that’s not as much of a compliment as you would think. I also think it won’t be the best story of the series. Barnaby Edwards is an interesting writer. Such stories as Bride of Peladon and the Beast of Orlok are two stories which don’t go crash bang wallop but something equally satisfying. The characters are very strong and believable and they have a back story to them that you want to know more about. You know what sort of story you are going to get with certain writers and with Edwards you know your going to get a strong steady story with a nice plot to it that doesn’t get to smart for its own good but doesn’t treat the listener like a simpleton. The Book of Kells is a story worthy of multiple listens if not just for the cliffhanger at the end.

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