Big Finish is a company that has produced hours and hours of original audio drama, largely built on the universe of Doctor Who. Not content with stories about the Doctor, the company has also looked around in every corner of the franchise for other possible focuses for its production. This has included other characters, original to Doctor Who spinoff media, such as Iris Wildthyme. Murder at the Abbey is a standalone story from one of her many seasons of audio adventures, made available on the Big Finish website as a free sample.
(Daily Doctor Who #203)
Murder at the Abbey
Line: Iris Wildthyme 5 – Wildthyme Reloaded
Length: 34 minutes
Buying Price: Wildthyme Reloaded, consisting of eight stories all together, goes from $20.
Comments: I’d only heard vague things about Iris Wildthyme before this. She’s apparently a free-wheeling renegade Time Lady with an unstable timeline and an uncertain backstory. She had an uncertain number of incarnations that came in an uncertain order, but many of them resemble famous earth actresses (like Jane Fonda and Margaret Rutherford). Her TARDIS resembles a bus and is smaller inside than out, she displays a meta-awareness of herself as a character in a series of stories, and she is generally operates as a parody of the Doctor, even if she occasionally interacts with him.
Iris was created by author Paul Magrs originally for a non-Doctor Who novel, and then later in some Doctor Who short stories and books. Here in the world of Big Finish audio, she is usually played by Katy Manning, better known as companion Jo Grant from the era of the Third Doctor. In Murder at the Abbey, by Mark B. Oliver, she and her companion Captain Turner have been spending time in a grand old English home in the 1950’s, when tragically the daughter of the home, Chloe, drops dead after choking on a sandwich. But Iris realizes that Chloe’s death is not what it appears, and sets about tracking down how she was murdered, and by whom.
As a murder mystery, Murder at the Abbey is not anything special. There are a few suspects with some clever motives, and clues that point to it all. But a lot of the story hinges on Chloe having a deathly allergy to nuts that is withheld from the audience, and certainly seems like the sort of thing that someone would have brought up when trying to figure out what had happened. It’s the cheapest of solutions for the question of how the murder was committed, and while the issue who is a bit better, it’s not enough to make it a genuinely interesting mystery.
And there isn’t anything else going on–there’s no monster or science fiction plot happening. So without a good mystery, there’s not much to enjoy here.
As far as Iris herself is concerned, well, she’s fine and Katy Manning is fun, but there’s not really anything that stands out here. The story doesn’t feel substantially different (and certainly it’s not any better) than just listening to regular Doctor Who, except the character is perhaps just a bit more free-spirited. But that does not come across strongly and so whatever distinguishing characteristics are possible with Iris Wildthyme are pretty diluted here, making it feel like a strange choice for a sample story. It’s entertaining enough, but at the same time, highly generic, leaving one to wonder what the point of it all is.
Does it tempt me to get more? Not really. Like many of these sorts of adventures, I like them well enough, but if I’m going to spend the money I’m more likely to buy something that is actually Doctor Who.