Blurb: Visiting the English seaside town of Cromer in the summer of 1932, the Doctor happens upon the strange world of the Cromer Palace of Curios.
The young Ernestina Scott is unusually beguiled by one of the museum’s exhibits, and when the Doctor befriends her, they unwittingly embark upon a terrifying escapade. Chased by animated dolls through a nightmarish model house, the Doctor realizes he is being hunted by a familiar enemy. The unmistakable sound of hornets is in the air, and they are keen to speak to him. Overseeing this game of cat and mouse is the Palace of Curios’ curator –a certain Mrs Wibbsey…
Format: Multi-voice audio drama starring Tom Baker and Richard Franklin published by BBC Audio and released October 2009.
Setting: Cromer, U.K. on the planet Earth in 1932. The story is narrated by the Doctor at Nest Cottage, Sussex, UK on the planet Earth in 2009.
Continuity: This story takes place between The Invasion of Time and The Ribos Operation and immediately after the audio story The Stuff of Nightmares. The Doctor says that the reason that he has such a large scarf is to use it as a rope (see The Ark in Space). Percy Noggins is the grandson of Ernestina Scott (see The Stuff of Nightmares).
Canonicity Quotient: This story inherits all of the issues that its predecessor had. Apparently the TARDIS now has a "bloodhound" ability to sniff an object and trace its path through time, which seems like another convenient new ability for the TARDIS, which would have helped the Doctor a number of times before and it seems strange that he's never used it. 0.72
Discussion: The Dead Shoes is the second part of BBC Audio's Hornet's Nest story. After being trapped in the cellar of Nest Cottage at the end of the previous episode, the Doctor relates his next adventure to Mike Yates. He wanted to learn more about the Hornet's and did some research. Finding mention of some strange goings on in Cromer in the year 1932, the Doctor decided to investigate if the Hornet's were involved. This time the story is almost completely narrated by the Doctor and although Richard Franklin continued to gain costar billing his presence is far less felt in this story as he only has about a half dozen lines.
The format on this story is a little superior. There's more of a cast with the Doctor and three supporting characters in his story in Cromer. Mike's character is relegated to a half dozen lines or so simply to remind listeners that he's there and that's who the Doctor is relating his story to. With three characters within the Doctor's story there's more room for dramatization, especially since they all meet and interact with each other at various times. So while this story is still very narration heavy there's a lot more variety to spice that up.
Unfortunately the plot seems to go out the window. Why in the world do the Hornet's need the shoes? This is never given satisfactory explanation even in the next story. They do a find job of controlling anyone whenever they want. They didn't even want Ernestina to get her hands on them. What was so important about them? It seems that Magrs is so enamored with the creepyness of someone controlled by their shoes and being made to dance a macabre dance of death to the tune of the Nutcracker that he doesn't really care to have any rationale beyond that. The Hornet's apparently have no motivation for anything that they do and don't really convince as a serious threat. Similarly, the doll's house segment is full of creepy imagery but doesn't seem to have anything to do with the rest of the plot. It feels like it's just there to take up time. Even worse, the Doctor is magically able to reverse the shrinking effect with his sonic screwdriver. It's to bad that he didn't think of that any other time that he's been miniaturized. Ernestina is almost forced by the hornets to dance off the cliff twice and the Doctor saves her the same way both times. Then at the end the Hornets seemingly for no reason just up and leave. There's just way to much that's just repetitive and doesn't make sense and it makes me feel like this was a real waste of a second part. The one thing that I do like is that the Doctor and the Hornets are encountering each other backwards with respect to each other's timelines. It's a neat idea and one that surprisingly hasn't been done much in the series.
The production livens up a little here. As already discussed, Richard Franklin has very little to do in this one. Bereft of his co-star, Tom Baker really gets a chance to shine. The dramatizations seem far more like the kind of dialog that we've come to expect from the fourth Doctor, which lends credence to my theory that the mental strain from keeping the Hornet's in check is what makes him so bizarre in Nest Cottage. Once again his narration is done with superb skill and he works very hard to keep the tone of the piece dark and moody. Susan Jameson delights as the no-nonsense Mrs Wibbsey. Clare Corbett takes the role of interim companion as Ernestina Scott and plays the role well making her a sympathetic friend for the Doctor to help. The Reverand Small played by Christian Rodska seems a little superfluous to the plot, but Rodska gives him his all. The production also seems to have added more to the soundscape. There's more music and sounds this time around, which helps to convey more of the overall feeling of the locations and makes for some more enjoyable listening.
Final Rating: 5/10
Recommendation: Sadly, Magrs goes for style over substance again. Whereas The Stuff of Nightmares had a plot that made sense albeit a thin one, The Dead Shoes seems to simply exist to pad the story out to five parts and allow Magrs to use more of the whimsical, flowery language that he loves so much. The Hornet's motivations seem nonexistent and their threat seems minimal. The production seems to be coming into its own more but it's not enough to offset the drop in quality from the story itself. Unless you really love The Stuff of Nightmares, I recommend skipping it.