Doctor Who: The Lovecraft Invasion
Starring: Colin Baker, Lisa Greenwood, Miranda Raison, Robyn Holdaway, and Alan Marriott
Written by: Robert Valentine
Directed by: Scott Handcock
“Quit swooning! My point is, I KNOW you! I know what you ARE! So let me tell you something about ME. I’m a mixed-race, pansexual, trans, non-binary person that’s from a future that’s coming whether you like it or not! And on top of that?! I’m not even entirely HUMAN!”
“That’s right! I’m EVERYTHING you HATE in one stylish package and I don’t have TIME to DEAL with you! I’ve got a PLANET to save!”
The Sixth Doctor and company meet “weird fiction” author/genre “icon” H.P. Lovecraft and tell him precisely how, why, and to what extent he sucks in Big Finish Productions’ brazenly weird and entertaining Doctor Who: The Lovecraft Invasion. A release from the now retired “Monthly Adventures” range from Big Finish.
Written by longtime Big Finish scribe Robert Valentine and directed by script editor Scott Handcock, The Lovecraft Invasion is an embarrassment of pulp and historical riches. Our story opens the tail-end of another “off-screen” adventure. The Sixth Doctor and companions Constance Clarke and Flip Jackson have teamed up with interstellar bounty hunter Calypso Jonze (Sex Education scene-stealer and nonbinary actor Robyn Holdaway) to recapture a creature called the Somnifax. A deadly shapeshifting serial killer who is drawn to negative emotion.
Granted, that could sustain a serial all its own, but The Lovecraft Invasion does listeners a few better. As our heroes track the Somnifax, their journey brings them to 1937 Rhode Island, where a struggling writer named Howard Philips Lovecraft is trying to eek out an existence filled with hatred, anxieties, and self-imposed exile. Soon, he’s drawn into a true-blue cosmic horror scenario, literally ripped from the pages of his works, and naturally bringing along a few Great Old Ones.
The Lovecraft Invasion succeeds overall thanks to deep knowledge. Both of Lovecraft’s own history and his “weird” canon. Writer Robert Valentine at this point is a very tried and true hand at what works and doesn’t in Doctor Who. But in this release however, there is a bit more of a geeky glee to the script. Not only will aficionados marvel at the deep bench of Mythos creatures that show up in this serial. But the table-top gamers amongst you will also appreciate the story’s tremendous runner of Call of Cthulhu shout-outs and “gamer speak” that peppers the narrative. Centered around the immensely charming Flip Jackson (played by the charming Lisa Greenwood), who apparently had quite the hobby before meeting The Doctor and Mrs. Clarke (the always amazing Miranda Raison).
More importantly, with this knowledge comes a stark confrontation of Lovecraft’s racism and blunted upbringing. As Mrs. Clarke and Jonze find themselves chasing after HPL in 1937, who is being drawn back to places he experienced great traumas thanks to the Somnifax’s influences. Often,n “Lovecraftian” efforts focus only on the creatures or cosmic horror. At the same time rationalizing or ignoring completely his obvious prejudices and virulent xenophobia. The Lovecraft Invasion, however, faces it full on. Contextualizing it’s entire narrative around Lovecraft’s bigotry and working through it in a way only Doctor Who could.
Granted, this is still a story in which The Sixth Doctor fights a Shoggoth. And takes a walking tour through Lovecraft’s Providence with one Randolph Carter, Keeper of The Silver Key (Alan Marriott in a fascinatingly honest double role as both Lovecraft and Carter). And yet, The Lovecraft Invasion and it’s stellar cast and crew take the time to thoughtfully examine Lovecraft and his work through a modern eye. Confronting both the man and his work in rigorously entertaining ways, all trying to come to terms with his lasting impact and obvious problems. Wrapped in a seriously fun and effecting story, likely one of the best of the entire “Monthly Releases” range in my opinion.
“You know, Mr. Lovecraft, you could so EASILY been BETTER than you ARE.” says The Doctor to Lovecraft, in one of many outstanding scenes from Colin Baker and company. This thought, coming at the end of a stellar monologue from Baker and Robert Valentine, crystalizes the story’s thesis. Additionally, providing articulation to a thought many (myself included) have had reading the author’s works. THIS is the real spark of The Lovecraft Invasion, one that is well-worth seeking out.