Doctor Who Review: ‘Eighth Doctor Adventures: The Beast of Orlok’ (Audio)

It’s a story of dark forests, evil barons, and frightening monsters. But is ‘The Beast of Orlok’ quite the story you’re expecting?

The Beast of Orlok is an interesting story. Initially, it seems to be going for a strong fairy tale influence, with a slight touch of horror. We’re introduced to “Hans and Greta”, two young German adults living in the Black Forest. There’s an evil Baron who has returned to his castle after twenty years. And there’s even a monster: “the Beast of Orlok”, of which everyone in the village fears.

So there’s a very clear Brothers Grimm influence throughout this story. Fans of classic, dark fairy tales would greatly appreciate this.

And yet somehow, it never quite captures that distinct fairy tale feel. Not entirely, anyway. Maybe it needed more time to accomplish that. Or perhaps it has too much of a distinctly “modern” feel. In this latter aspect, at least, The Beast of Orlok is very successful.

It isn’t simply that the story has a nice, fast pace. Or that it’s filled with a lot of interesting characters. No, what really makes The Beast of Orlok a success as a rather modern story is how quickly it changes gears halfway through.

The first episode feels like an intriguing mystery for the Doctor and Lucie to solve. It also feels like the worlds of real history and fairy tale are colliding into one. When there’s murder for the Doctor to investigate and a beast on the loose, it starts out as a classic “monster story”, straight out of old Universal movies.

From monster story to epic sci-fi

Then, in the second part, the story changes genre almost entirely. As we’re given more and more explanations, the story becomes more of a clearcut science-fiction story. Even one with a sense of an epic scale, particularly when the cavalry show up. It feels much bigger and with much higher stakes than The Beast of Orlok initially began with. It’s really satisfying and enjoyable to hear how smoothly this transition is performed.

Another strong element is hearing the Doctor and Lucie working well as a team again. The Vengeance of Morbius separated them for a long time. Orbis had them reunited, but the Doctor was very reluctant to be a hero again. Hothouse gradually repaired both the Doctor’s relationship with both humanity and with Lucie. But he still had a lot to work through. So it’s nice that, during The Beast of Orlok, he’s more or less back to his old self.

This could work really well as a Fourth Doctor story, in a completely different sense. If it had twice the length, it’s very easy to imagine the story capturing that mix of fairy tale and horror just a little more successfully.

However, it also has to be said that The Beast of Orlok is a great story in its own right. Its fun, it’s exciting, and, after several emotional episodes and the characters recovering from that, it’s a more than welcome return to the status quo of the Eighth Doctor and Lucie. Once again, they’re having adventures and enjoying themselves while they do it. And that’s always a joy to hear.

Next time: ‘Wirrn Dawn’