Season 17 – you knew where you were with Season 17 – starts with a TARDIS scene with pithy dialogue, and cuts to a pretty over-the-top villain with a scenery-chewing plot to take over the universe. Tom clowns around making silly flippant comments, Lalla does all the serious bits – there’s a big explosion and they all go home. Perfection.
This months Fourth Doctor release is a very “un-season 17” like experience. Well it is and it isn’t. It starts in Budapest with some delightfully Adams-esque dialogue between Tom and Lalla – this is pure City of Death territory – beautiful lines about songs of Copenhagen and Budapest and getting tulips – it all seems very familiar – and then… well it then takes a very dark turn. We go from the pithy flippancy of Williams right back to the Gothic horror of Hinchcliffe in the space of one scene. Put it this way – imagine if Robert Holmes had been script edited by Douglas Adams, silliness and slaughter hand-in-hand is the order of the day here. And being set in Budapest it’s not too long before a Vampire is the suspected culprit…
For all the gothic homages during the Hinchcliffe tenure, Vampires were not really touched upon and horror homages were not really a Williams trope – but The Labyrinth of Buda Castle beautifully melds together the sensibilities of both eras – we have the overt horror of Hinchcliffe combined with the wise cracking zingy dialogue of Williams – oh and the villain of the piece played by Mark Bonnar has a fabulous in-joke of a name – Zoltán Frid. Tweet me if you want an explanation!
Joining the Doctor and Romana on this perhaps Vampire hunt is Celia Soames (Kate Bracken) a Vampire Hunter who has come to Budapest in search of Dracula. Their search leads them to the Labyrinth of Buda Castle (of the title) where the army are holding back a monster and its maker – it seems that Zoltán Frid has been playing a very long game and he is very very hungry…
Suitably flippant, cleverly written and very gory, this is pure “B” movie heaven. It has a labyrinth, a monster, a plan that has been hundreds of years coming to fruition, women who want to be the bride of Zoltán Frid, a silly Tom, a serious Tom and a stern Romana! The tone swings like a pendulum between horror and humour, always wrong-footing the listener and making the Doctor even more unpredictable than he usually is in his Fourth incarnation.
A story to make you hunger for a stake (sorry, couldn’t resist!).
Written by Ed Watkinson
The Doctor and Romana land in Budapest, intent on enjoying another holiday, but shortly after landing they find themselves too late to save the life of a man who has seemingly been attacked by a vampire. As they learn that this is the latest in a series of violent attacks, it becomes clear that they have stumbled onto something that needs investigating.
Aided by a vampire hunter who is searching for Dracula, they look into the nearby Buda caves, currently being used for storage by the military – and find that the soldiers have problems of their own.
Stalked through the tunnels by a monster, and up against an ancient evil, the race is on to escape alive – and foil the dastardly schemes of the maniacal Zoltan Frid.
Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana), Kate Bracken (Celia Soames), Mark Bonnar (Zoltán Frid), Peter Barrett (Guard-Major Priskin), John Dorney (Ensign Kanta), Anjella Mackintosh (Anita Kereki) other parts played by members of the cast
Written By: Eddie Robson
Directed By: Nicholas Briggs
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs