In the Museum of Aural Antiquities, murder happens at the speed of sound. As usual, the Doctor and his companion arrive just in time to trip over the body and get accused of being the perpetrators.
Have a trailer.
To my relief and surprise, suspicions are quickly allayed on the simple principle that the Doctor is too fashion-challenged to be the murderer, and so Peri and Six can get on with assisting the murder investigation. Also, even though there’s a dead body in the museum, and someone else died at the museum quite recently, everyone’s top priority is helping a presidential candidate set up a political broadcast in which the previous corpse conveniently endorses her as his successor. We wouldn’t want to call in any kind of CSI that might get in the way of a political ad, now would we? We’ll let a single security officer and two possible suspects handle the mystery.
Sorry. I’m exaggerating, but this is definitely classic Who plotting with all the structural integrity of a sand castle. It looks nice enough, but please don’t prod it with a stick.
On the plus side, Whispers of Terror reunites the Sixth Doctor and Peri for the first time since Peri’s awkward departure during Mindwarp in 1986, and they slide back into their roles effortlessly. It retains the abrasive Season 22 Doctor-Peri dynamic I disliked as a youngster, but now that I’m older and more crotchety, I don’t mind as much. As we now know, Colin and Nicola can be a joy if they’re given something to work with. This script qualifies as a modest something.
“We can’t stay. The Doctor’s clothes are too loud for this museum.” — Peri
Scriptwriter Justin Richards fully exploits the audio medium: there’s a sound creature (rather better done than audio Trek’s attempt at the trope), there’s a museum of sounds, and there’s a blind curator (Peter Miles, aka Nyder in Genesis of the Daleks and several other roles) who conveniently needs audio cues. Unsettling whispers, screams, and disembodied voices repeated in the style of “WHO AM I?” Xoanon give the story its name. In some ways, the real danger may not be the whispers, but the blunt words of opportunist politician Beth Pernell, ably played by Lisa Bowerman. Purnell is all about words and sounds and selective editing. In fact, that’s the interesting part of this audio: who’s telling the truth, when any sound can be edited or manipulated?
Compared to later Big Finishes, this story is fairly basic, but Lisa, Colin, and Nicola are always fun to listen to, once you get used to Nicola’s accent. Those familiar with Big Finish know that Lisa Bowerman adds a little extra zing to any audio she’s a part of. It’s certainly well worth the discounted price of the first fifty main ranges.
This audio introduces the Big Finish equivalent of redshirts: unlucky thieves, saboteurs or tomb robbers. They blunder ahead of the Doctor and his companion like sheep across a minefield, triggering traps, uncovering plots, and leaving a trail of bodies around to alert everyone to the fact that there’s a murderer on the loose. You really don’t want to be Indiana Jones in the Whoniverse, unless you’re Professor Summerfield (and even she might prefer a quieter life).
That scene with Purnell selectively editing a sound creature to torture it is a delightfully unique “evil person is evil” scene. Although I must say this script probably makes more sense to someone who’s in the business of making audio dramas than to most listeners. I grasped most of it, but it took a re-listen or two before I understood exactly how they were able to listen to the creature without actually listening to it. I’m still not 100% clear on that.
First audio adventure with Peri and Six. It has to come before Trial of a Timelord, and its production code 6Z/A shows it’s after Revelation of the Daleks, so it’s tacked onto the end of season 22.
There’s one complication: where do the “Lost Stories” fall?
I’m following Big Finish’s codes, which suggest Timelash —> Lost Stories —> Revelation of the Daleks —> Whispers of Terror, Ish…, etc.
However many fans use this order instead: Timelash —> Revevlation of the Daleks —> Lost Stories —> Whispers of Terror, Ish…, etc.
Why the discrepancy?
The original Season 23 was abandoned during the 1985 hiatus and replaced with Trial of a Timelord when the show came back 18 months later. In 2009, Big Finish reconstructed and produced the “lost” season 23, starting with Nightmare Fair. Originally, Revelation of the Daleks had ended with the Doctor saying they’re going to Blackpool, the setting of Nightmare Fair, but that line was cut. However, Big Finish’s production codes clearly insert the Peri & Six Lost Stories after Timelash, perhaps because they wanted to leave Revelation of the Daleks as the season finale.
The next Peri & Six audio after this one is …Ish.