Fiction can be a funny old thing, a book or a short story or a novella can transport us to a world where the unreal and unimaginable can be perceived as entirely more tangible and real. Characters and emotions that many don’t ever get to meet or feel can suddenly be only a fingertips reach away and this makes fiction, for many, a suitable alternative to harsh realities.
John Dorney, writer of The Crooked Man, is a person who seems to understand this only too well. His story, whilst beginning as a simple and supposedly alien murder mystery for the Fourth Doctor and Leela in a quiet seaside town, fast becomes a (almost) parable about the human condition and how sometimes, facing reality is not something that one wishes to choose.
With a storyteller as adept as Dorney, this is no mere two-dimensional sidestep into the land of fiction versus the land of fact but a gut wrenching, fast paced and thrilling leap into the unknown and the terrifying. The eponymous Crooked Man is a monstrous creation for the Doctor to face off against, his voice and manner and cold viciousness are incredibly disturbing-his plan to take over this reality by killing human beings one by one to replace them with forgotten fictional characters is delivered as unsympathetically as the Dream Lord’s plight. Enjoying this story is easy but listening to this vacuous construct is anything but.
Not content with creating a creature of terrifying magnitude for the Doctor to deal with, Dorney also knows at exactly which points to tug at the heart-strings of the listener. Frantically paced scenes of action are interlaced gently with more tender scenes such as Leela remembering her long dead father or the final twist at the end of the tale, which for many, should bring a tear to the eye or a lump to the throat at least.
This reviewer will happily admit that he may be ever so lightly bias to this tale as Dorney is a personal favourite when it comes to the regular Big Finish writing team for The Fourth Doctor Adventures, but make no mistake-if a story doesn’t work well then you will know about it from these reviews. The Crooked Man can be safely described as one of the jewels in the crown of the (hopefully ongoing) ongoing Fourth Doctor Adventures.
The Crooked Man is about facing up to the harsher realities of life and embracing them, not denying them or sidestepping the issues that you have. In many ways, we all have a crooked man or woman somewhere in the deeper reaches of our consciousness but maybe, just maybe, this story might help you to understand that you’re never alone.
The Crooked Man is available from www.bigfinish.com now on CD or via download.