The Chimera's Game

William Merlock

March 2003

It’s not often that I say this about a work of fiction, but Everlasting Films’ The Chimera’s Game scared me. It is claustrophobic, dark, and sinister, and one of the most vivid audio dramas to date. The plot itself is simple: things have gone very wrong in the TARDIS, and the Doctor (Jym DeNatale) and Christine (Rachel Sommers) have to figure out the cause of the problems and fix them. ‘Simple’ by no means implies simplistic or uninteresting, and there are enough twists and turns to keep the listener guessing until almost the end. But it is characterization and mood that are the strengths of this audio, and these are present in abundance.

Taking a page from the WilliamHarnell serial Inside the Spaceship, The Chimera’s Game is set entirely in the TARDIS and features the vocal talents of only DeNatale and Sommers. Writer Robert Dunlop takes excellent advantage of this setting by using and building on the strong relationship between these two characters. As tensions build, character flaws in both the Doctor and Christine appear, not in an over-the-top fashion but realistically. It’s a credit to everyone involved (the actors, the writer, directors Sheri Devine and Robert Dunlop, indeed the whole production staff who’ve built the Doctor Who Audio Dramas to this point) that a two-part, hour-long audio drama can be carried by only a pair of voices.

Well, not exactly “only a pair of voices”. The sound effects and incidental music build the atmosphere in which danger lurks around every corner. This story is yet another step up for the DWADs in terms of incidental music and effects, failing only occasionally with sounds that are too loud or overwhelm dialogue.

I was extremely impressed with the scope of this story. In the previous DWAD, Past Imperfect, the existence of the entire universe is hanging in the balance; four stories ago, in The Chronic Rift, not just our own universe but others as well are threatened by forces beyond comprehension. But The Chimera’s Game takes place entirely inside the TARDIS and the threat is limited to the same. Yet the closed-in nature of the environment, the danger present in what is usually the one dependably safe spot the Doctor and Christine (and, by proxy, the listener) can retreat to, makes the threat that much more immediate and powerful. Good stuff!

Criticisms? Well... After a sterling first episode, the second episode dragged a bit. I think it suffered from the Doctor and Christine being separated for a bit too long, resulting in a few too many solo descriptions of what was going on. There were a couple of scenes that might have been trimmed a bit, and the climax occurred in a bit of a sound clutter that was a bit confusing the first time through.

But these are minor complaints. Overall, it’s hard to believe how strong a run the DWADs are on. The Chimera’s Game, a two-part, two character, TARDIS-bound story fitting between the epic Past Imperfect and the DWAD 20th anniversary story The Webs of Time, might well have fallen in the cracks, but instead brings it home with one of the most genuinely scary stories I’ve heard on audio.

Last updated: Thursday, March 20, 2003