The Eighth Doctor and his new companion face ravens, red death, and an obsession with Edgar Allen Poe in Doctor Who: Nevermore!
As you can probably tell from the title, Nevermore is a Doctor Who story with a very strong influence from Edgar Allan Poe. It’s a story with ravens, black cats, red death and even a pit and a pendulum!
Interestingly, these references aren’t missed by the characters. In fact, many of them are deliberately created by a character obsessed with Poe’s work. This makes a bit of a change for a story with such clear influences. There are many Doctor Who stories which have paid homage to horror classics. (Tom Baker stories in particular had many references to classic horror movies and novels. These included The Mummy, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and Frankenstein, to name a few.) But not many where even the very characters openly recognize those influences.
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This also allows for a lot of quotations to be made for Poe’s work. Some of it helps add to the tension and overall atmosphere of the story. But there are even some moments when it’s played for laughs. There’s one particularly brilliant moment when the Eighth Doctor is asked by robotic Ravens to quote the poem Nevermore. He tries just one verse initially, but when that’s insufficient, he tries reciting the whole poem on the spot!
The overall story comes across as very atmospheric. It’s almost surprising that, with the strong influence of Poe’s work, it’s set on such an alien world, complete with spaceships and references to future battles. Setting it in a gothic house in the 1800s could have been seen as an easier choice. However, Alan Barnes does a great job of taking this very sci-fi story and making it feel very atmospheric and horrific.
The characters are also intriguing. General Wendigo is imprisoned for a truly horrific crime. Yet she never comes across as a completely evil person. She made a horrific choice, but she also still believes that she did the right thing. When she helps to save the Doctor’s companion at one point, she clearly doesn’t believe in causing needless death. She’s still far from sympathetic, showing little guilt for her actions. But she’s a very interesting character, and played very well by Fenella Woolgar.
Michael J Shannon also gives an interesting performance as Senior Prosecutor Uglosi. Initially coming across as Wendigo’s jailor, he’s a man who has a few secrets of his own. He’s also a man with a complete obsession of Poe, allowing for all the references in the story to take place.
Nevermore would’ve been interesting enough as a stand-alone mystery. However, there’s another layer added to it, as there’s a little bit of Time Lord history involved. Following on from the clues established in Situation Vacant, we’re also given further hints that someone else is out there and causing trouble. These hints and clues are subtle though, and don’t detract from the overall story. It does start to make it clear that, arc-wise, the stories of this final season are just a little less stand-alone than before.
Nevermore is a really interesting and atmospheric listen, and comes across as a great tribute to Edgar Allan Poe. Another great story for the Eighth Doctor.
Are you a fan of Edgar Allan Poe and his stories? Would you like to see some of his work covered in a Doctor Who story on television? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.