Wholly Satisfactory

Review of The Holy Terror (#14)
Big Finish Release Date: November 2000
Doctor/Companion: Six and Frobisher
Stars: Colin Baker and Robert Jezek
Preceding Story: The Shadow of the Scourge (Seven, Ace)
Succeeding Story: The Mutant Phase (Five, Nyssa)

When I realized the next audio on my list was the first one to include Frobisher the talking penguin (okay, he's actually a Whifferdill; he just prefers the penguin shape), I was pretty psyched. I'd heard good things about the character and was looking forward to his introduction.

Alas, my limited experience with alternative media stories led me astray; as Frobisher was already an established character in comics (a fact which had somehow escaped me), Big Finish apparently felt he needed no introduction in the audio format. I had flashbacks to my first experience with Evelyn, which was frustrating; I'd been so pleased that I wouldn't be jumping into the middle that way again. Unfortunately, the only way to get Frobisher's whole story is to dig into yet another medium, which I am unlikely to do.

So I shrugged away my regrets and focused on the good stuff—like the fact that The Holy Terror was written by Robert Shearman, one of my favorite Who writers. The story has Shearman's usual mix of humor, slightly disturbing imagery, and slow-burn plot reveals, which start right off the bat as we witness a bizarrely pragmatic change of regime. The former ruler—deemed a god by his people—has died, and any who still claim loyalty to him are denounced as blasphemers, for a new god has ascended the throne.

Yet the people are fickle, and readily switch their loyalties, as the changeover rolls along in a precise, predestined pattern. It is, predictably, at this point that the TARDIS lands in the thick of it. The Doctor and Frobisher provide enough of a new perspective to allow the new emperor-god's seeds of self-doubt to bloom into a full-fledged oak of resistance. Everything goes topsy-turvy and we witness the unfolding of events that appear somehow both revolutionary and repetitive.

In certain ways, The Holy Terror reminded me of Castrovalva. Each has a sense of the locals being a very closed community steeped in ritual and unable to see anything the least bit strange about how they live their lives. No one questions the way things have always been done until an outsider inspires them to explore an alternative.

While it wasn't what I'd expected from my initial outing with a new-to-me Companion, The Holy Terror has plenty to recommend it. The plot reveals come at a good pace, with enough hints along the way for the listener to work out some (if not all) of the puzzle along with the Doctor. Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor is completely Doctor-ish without the harsh edges we got from his on-screen persona, and Robert Jezek as Frobisher is just quirky enough to complement Ol' Sixie. (In reading up on the character's origins as a private investigator, the choice of a northeastern American accent—that most often used in "hard boiled detective" stories—makes perfect sense.)

In the end, I felt satisfied with how the story had played out, giving just enough twists to be interesting while pulling all the threads back together to be tied neatly together. It also left me wanting more, as all good stories do. I look forward to my next encounter with Frobisher and Six.

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Comments

I've read the comics which include Frobisher the shape changing penguin and they were interesting. I always heard his voice in my head as having a British accent, cause ya know, Doctor Who. Also, could there BE a more British sounding name than Frobisher?

They are all handily collected into one graphic novel. It's upstairs but I'll look up the name of it for you if you're interested. Though I don't know if it's still in print.

As for shape changers in general, I tend to dislike them. I find they stretch my suspenion of disbelief perhaps a little too far. But Frobisher himself is charming and the penguin shape is silly enough to tickle my fancy though I can't think it would be practical without oposable thumbs.

By Kara S (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

Ooh! I'd be all about a collection! If you can track down the title for me, that would be awesome. :D

Yeah, seems to me opposable thumbs would be a pretty basic choice for a sentient being. Then again, I probably wouldn't have chosen penguin in the first place, so... ;)

By mrfranklin

The title is Voyager, the publisher is Panini Books. It collects strips from the official Doctor Who magazine. It includes 7 different stories featuring Six and Frobisher including his introduction.

You might also want to check out The Tenth Doctor collection by the same publisher with stories of Ten and Martha. It has 4 stories in it, all wonderful.

There was also a crossover series with Doctor Who and Star Trek which was great fun. I got it issue by issue but I'm sure it's been collected into a graphic novel by now. Barnes and Noble should be able to order them for you or perhaps you could find them on line.

By Kara S (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

Thanks, Kara! :)

By mrfranklin

If you get the graphic novels perhaps you could review them for us.

By Kara S (not verified)
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