Review: Doctor Who Hornets’ Nest – Hive of Horror

Hive of Horror (Cover)Blurb: As a new day breaks over Nest Cottage, the Doctor and Mike know they have to face their enemy for a final confrontation. Reduced to miniature size, and with Mrs Wibbsey along as an unwilling adventurer, they venture inside the hornets’ nest itself. The Queen lies in wait for the enemy which she and her brood have faced so many times over the millennia. If she is to guarantee the survival of her alien hornet race for another thousand years, this is a battle she must win!

The loyalty of the Doctor’s friends will be tested to the limit. And perhaps, at last, they will all understand why Mike Yates is so important…

Review: The saga of the Hornets concludes in this fifth and final chapter of Hornets’ Nest. The Doctor has tracked the Hornets backwards in time and he’s brought Mike Yates up to speed about them. Now the final battle is upon them as the Doctor must confront the Queen of the Hive. The overt narration from the Doctor is over and the story gains a sense of immediacy as the character interaction is acted out rather than described. Both Yates and Mrs. Wibbsey get a chance to shine and the story comes to a mostly satisfactory conclusion.

One thing that really needs to be explained about this story is what a let-down the beginning is. After the wonderful cliffhanger in A Sting in the Tale. This story comes in some time after the cliffhanger has been resolved with very little explanation as to how it happened. Even worse, Mike and the Doctor seem to have forgotten some of the key details around that cliffhanger and how they were lured into the trap. This means that some interesting character potential is lost and at the same time makes it feel like the previous episode was written without any clear thought as to what the final chapter was going to be about or how it would resolve itself. While it’s true that some of the same accusations can be made about the classic series of Doctor Who, it should never be an excuse for lazy storytelling to say that there was some lazy storytelling in the original series, so it’s okay for any new content with those characters to make those same mistakes.

The format improves immensely with this story but it still isn’t all that it could be. Now that the Doctor’s stories are over, it’s back to the melancholy narration from Mike Yates who is relating this story to parties unknown sometime in the future. The problem is that the story reminds you that Mike is telling the story at all the wrong times. Anytime the drama is about to hit a climax, Mike’s narration returns, taking you out of the action and reminding you that everything must turn out alright in the end or he wouldn’t be narrating the story. It’s the kind of thing that can’t happen in a fully narrated tale such as a Companion Chronicle and can only happen in something that is half narration/half full cast audio such as this. The narration also makes it hard to visualize some of what’s going on. At one point, the Doctor, Mike, and Mrs. Wibbsey are in a room with a stuffed zebra. The Doctor shrinks them and they’re all standing on the zebra’s head. How did that happen? Were they standing on the head to begin with? That doesn’t make sense but if the Doctor shrank them standing next to the zebra then shouldn’t they have shrunk to the floor where they were standing? Those sorts of visual incongruities with what is being described really hurt the listener from fully immersing themselves in the fictional world being described.

Hive of Horror works for the same reason that The Circus of Doom did. At its core this is a story about people. There are some really subtle things. Mike Yates is infamous in the Doctor Who universe for betraying his friends. His suspicions that Mrs. Wibbsey is a traitor says a lot about how those events scarred him. There are a lot of nice subtle undercurrents about his character and how he was affected by the events all those years ago. It all culminates in the Faustian bargain that the Hornets give to him. So long as he betrays the Doctor again they can provide him with power and new life that he’d never had before. It’d be a tempting offer for any man and it’s great that Franklin portrays it honestly. Yates is clearly tempted but the question is whether or not he’ll go through with it. Franklin really impresses with everything from his melancholy narration to how Mike is effected by the Hornets’ offer to his suspicions of Mrs. Wibbsey. Franklin really is the star of this series no matter how much Baker was necessary to getting it made. Baker also keeps the Doctor as entertaining as ever and he’s a delight here. Susan Jameson is still fun as the downbeat, down to Earth Mrs. Wibbsey. Here she has to face up against Mike’s accusations. She loses her resolve for a while, which gives her a note of humanity, but she’s still an interesting character. Rula Lenska also delights as the Hornet Queen, having the creepy, otherworldly voice but also being capable of seductive undertones when she’s offering Yates what he wants. It’s a nice high point for the series to end on with all of the actors giving nice performances and a story that focuses on character rather than plot.

The plot is mostly satisfactory. Various items and artifacts show up from the previous stories in the Hornets’ Nest series, which the Doctor and company need to bring things to a resolution. The Hornets do get short shrift once again. They’re far more prominent this time around and they get more to say and do. We also finally get some information about their plans and what they plan to do. It all helps, but in the end the Hornets just don’t feel like much of a threat. They don’t provide much of an impediment to the heroes and the story’s resolution appears to be reached with ease. It’s not such a bad thing in a story that’s more about character than plot, but it would have been nice if this story could have had really competent, intimidating villains in addition to some nice character interaction.

Recommendation: It’s the end of the Hornets! While Hive of Horror is the best part of Hornets’ Nest next to The Circus of Doom, boasting some strong character interaction and some great performances, it doesn’t help the series overall, which tended to be a bit on the boring side and with fairly weak plots and a format that didn’t do it any favors. If you got this far then the final chapter is definitely a worthy installment in the series, but this final chapter isn’t worth going through the entire series just to get to this point. I recommend skipping it.



Audio Drama

BBC Audio

Directed by Kate Thomas

Produced by Michael Stevens

Written by Paul Magrs

Runtime Approx 70 min.

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