Synopsis: France, the year 1770: by special invitation, the famous ‘Doctor’, friend of Voltaire, arrives at the lonely estate of the lovely Marquise de Rimdelle – once a hostess to the highest of high society, now isolated by the strange, pernicious mist that lingers round the countryside.
But there’s more in that fog than mere vapour, confesses the Marquise’s strange niece to the Doctor’s ward, Nyssa. She senses some uncanny machine circling the fringes of the estate, in the space between the shadows.
Watching. Always watching. She’s given it a name: ‘The Steamroller Man’.
Meanwhile, the man in the cellar talks to the Doctor; a dead man, trapped behind the cellar walls. The Steamroller Man is coming, he says; coming to smash the place down. It seems the Doctor has been drawn into a very dangerous liaison…
Review: I fixed myself a cup of tea and settled down to what I thought would be a steampunk historical only to discover I was listening to a variant of the malfunctioning holodeck story instead. On the plus side, Masquerade was a much more effective iteration of that old chestnut than any of the Star Trek attempts.
For one thing, our heroes don’t realize they’re in the holodeck, or Shadowspace, for most of the first hour. This allowed the superb cast to play with atmosphere and period tropes before they brought in the requisite technobabble.
Peter Davison said in the behind-the-scenes interview that he didn’t understand those techno bits of the script, but that wasn’t anything new, reminding him of his tenure on the show. His joy was palpable and put a smile on my face.
The second really effective element was Hannah Bartholemew (Francesca Hunt), a character introduced in the Big Finish audio Moonflesh. A spiritualist from 1911, her presence isn’t thematically incongruous. Her beliefs dovetail the futuristic situation, and she becomes integral to the plot.
I give Masquerade a four out of five.
You can buy it here: www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/masquerade-828
Written By: Stephen Cole
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Rebecca Night (Helene), Victoria Hamilton (Marquise De Rimdelle), David Chittenden (Vicomte de Valdac), Andrew Dickens (Steamroller Man), Sean Brosnan (Dead Man)
Written By: Raissa Devereux