|Mask of Tragedy
The first release for September 2014 is "Mask of Tragedy" by James Goss. This Seventh Doctor story stars Sylvester McCoy who is accompanied by his travelling companions Ace (played by Sophie Aldred) and Thomas Hector Schofield (played by Philip Olivier). It has been directed by Ken Bentley.
This story stars: Samuel West, Alisdair Simpson, Russell Bentley, Tim Treloar and Emily Tucker.
"Mask of Tragedy" is set in ancient Athens, and concerns The Doctor dropping in on his old friend Aristophanes who is trying to rehearse a play in the face of interruptions from zombie hordes, an alien locust and the imminent threat of a Spartan invasion. It's a very witty and colourful pseudo-historical tale, somewhere between "The Myth Makers" and "The Unicorn and the Wasp".
As Hector Thomas continues his travels with the Seventh Doctor, the spectre of the man he used to be is looming large.
'Poor old Hector looks just like Hex, but can't for the life of him behave exactly like Hex', writer James Goss has revealed. 'He's trying his best. He's this slightly broken person, and everybody is pointing at him saying, "You're just like that brilliant person who was our best friend, the most heroic and lovely person", and he's thinking, "I'm not"'. And then, all of a sudden, he's in ancient history, in a terribly complicated adventure.
It was script editor Jonathan Morris who suggested Hector visit the past. 'I said, "Can I do Ancient Greece, please?", because I'd just been re-reading Aristophanes and I wanted to re-read some more. Jonny said, "Ooh that's not been done"'.
James Goss' interest in Aristophanes came from studying this historical character at school. 'The great thing about Aristophanes is that it's still funny', he has revealed. 'When I was doing research for this, I found a brilliant recent Broadway musical production of one of his plays, starring Nathan Lane, that I listened to it at the gym, and it was very funny. Aristophanes can still sell out the West End today. Everything he does is very funny and lovely - but also poetic, and beautiful, and charming'.
The Doctor's relationship with Aristophanes in this story was inspired by some real-world history. 'Wouldn't it be brilliant if it turned out The Doctor had been sponsoring all Aristophanes' plays? It also gives you the whole idea of Athens - which is a city under siege and in famine - when The Doctor turns up, and all he wants to do is put on a play. That's fun'.
Even the more fantastical elements are grounded in Ancient Greek ideas. 'The army of the living dead comes from a lovely play in which the city is taken over by worship of the god Dionysus, and the entire city runs around insane', James has revealed. 'And I thought "Oh, that's effectively a zombie army!" The insect is actually from Aristophanes' play Peace, where the hero flew to heaven on a dung beetle. I thought, "What if there really was a giant alien beetle in Athens at the time?"'.
- Featuring the Seventh
Doctor, Ace and Hector
- Number of Episodes: 4
- Cover Length: 120 minutes
- Episode Lengths: 1 = 30'35", 2 = 27'56", 3 = 26'27", 4 = 33'01"
- Total Length: 122'56"
- Also features 22 minutes of trailers, music
and special behind-the-scenes interviews with
cast and producers.
- Cover Illustration: Tom Webster
- Recorded: TBA
- Recording Location: Moat Studios
- Released: September 2014
- ISBN: 978-1-78178-331-3
On the Back Cover:
Athens, 421 BC. An ancient civilisation of philosophers and poets and the birthplace of theatre. The Doctor has decided to show Ace and Hector how it all began, with help from the great comedian Aristophanes.
But life in Athens is no laughing matter. There’s the ever-present threat of invasion from the Spartan horde. The plague that turns people into the walking dead. The slavery. The tyrannical rule of the paranoid, malicious Cleon and his network of informers. And the giant flying beetle with knives for wings that stalks the city streets at night.
What Athens needs is a hero. And who better to be a hero in ancient Greece than a man called Hector?
|On the Inside Cover:
Probably the single most challenging thing about working for Big Finish is casting. The writers write wonderful and imaginative stories. But the more wonderful and imaginative they are, the harder they are to cast. It's one thing to cast, say, a doctor (small 'd'), but another thing entirely to cast an alien beetle disguised as a tourist. Thankfully actors love a challenge as much as I do.
Making drama is mostly about making choices. For example, I have to choose who to cast. But one of the most exciting things for me is watching actors make choices about their characters, particularly when the rotes are as fantastical as they often are in the world of Doctor Who.
Mask of Tragedy has some wonderful roles, and all have been brought vividly to life by a magnificent company of actors. Great voices and great choices combine to create one of the most bizarre and energetic plays I've had the pleasure of working on. I'd have paid good money to watch Emily Tucker giving Gerard Butler a run for his money as a Spartan warrior. That Big Finish paid me for the privilege makes me one of the luckiest people I know.
My most significant academic achievement was my Classical Studies A/S Level. I did it in three lessons - Greek Comedy, Greek Tragedy and "My wife's just had a baby. Would you like to see some pictures? Good luck tomorrow."
This isn't just boasting (although I got an A, since you ask. Why yes, thank you. All downhill since then). It's also because Classical Studies was so much fun. And the best thing about it was Aristophanes, who I've loved ever since Radio 3 did a brilliant version of The Birds, which I listened to purely because The Controller from Day
of the Daleks was in it. Playing an owl.
I still listen to the recording, although the knackered tape is now an MP3. The Birds gave the world the phrase 'Cloud Cuckoo Land'. It's also Aristophanes' sweetest and funniest play, about a man so fed up of political corruption that he convinces birdkind to set up their own Utopia in the clouds and take over the world. With songs.
What's remarkable about Aristophanes is that he pretty much invented comedy as an art form. Satire, slapstick, comic songs, and pure filth - he may not have been the first person to have done them, but he's the oldest writer who can sell-out both the West End and Broadway.
Aristophanes was a man of fierce invention. He brought world peace by flying to heaven on a dung-beetle. Dionysos, the god of fun, found himself trapped in hell with talking frogs. And then there's Lysistrata. which may just be the first piece of radical feminist fiction. As well as the most obscene.
He created all of these amazing artworks during a terrible time for Athens. While he was writing, his country was at war, ravaged by famine, and driven to despair by corrupt leaders. He really was prosecuted for bringing Athens into disrepute before aliens. His best friend, the peaceful philosopher Socrates, was executed for his writings. Fun times.
Yet, despite all this, the laughter of Aristophanes echoes across 2,500 years. Because the funniest people are also angry ones.
If you're worried that this is all going to be highbrow, please don't be. It's got frogs in it.
If you're worried that this is just going to be silly nonsense, please don't be. It features an army of the living dead.
If you're worried that this is going to be a work of tediously correct historical detail, please don't be. Aristophanes really did put a place called Peace on just before the end of a war. But it only won second prize.
And finally, if you're worried that this is going to feature a lot of people in togas. Well, I'm afraid you've got me there.
| Full Cast List:
|Telephus, Cisyphus/Old Man
The Production Team:
|Richard Fox and Lauren Yason
|Nicholas Briggs and Jason Haigh-Ellery