Whispers of Terror by Justin Richards

I think Whispers of Terror may well be someone in Big Finish Towers’ idea of heaven. It takes place in a world where sound rather than vision is the accepted form for entertainment, news and drama. People listen to things, people value the audio medium above all else. It isn’t a world where television can come along and spoil everything. It is a world where the sound mixer is king and can make or break society with his mixing desk. A change of inflection here, a tweak to the pitch there and the whole nature of meaning can change. It’s a world where Nick Briggs could rule the world.

It’s also a world where Nicola Bryant is still a teenager and will remain forever young and curvaceous. And so will Colin Baker.

Ahem.

People have said that Whispers of Terror was the ideal story for Big Finish to do – what could be better than a sound creature in an audio play? Unfortunately that logic doesn’t quite hold up because a sound creature would be invisible and the horror of an invisible creature comes from not being able to see it. In an audio play we cannot see any of the characters so what is special about an invisible one? Putting that aside it is an acceptable idea.

Whispers of Terror has lofty goals – it wants to be a horror story (small group trapped in a building with a killer), a political satire (an entire country/planet’s election decided by the remixing of a dead man’s speeches) and a high tech murder mystery all rolled into one. It broadly succeeds too which is impressive.

You have to admire its balls in presenting to us the greatest actor of all time. A man with such god given gifts that his word is considered sound enough to determine the entire course of democracy. Pity the man who has to actually be the greatest actor of all time. He does his best but it strains our credulity every time he delivers a supposedly historic speech.

The play’s strongest and most inventive scene is probably the one where the sound creature is trapped in the edit suite and tortured to the brink of insanity. Imagine cut and paste as an instrument of pain. Highlight a few peaks and troughs on a screen and click the fatal button. They make us feel sympathy for the creature even though we know what it has done and that it will do it again whenever it gets the chance.

It has its flaws – as every story does – but everything makes sense, there are some fantastic ideas in the play, it manages to be both excitingly new and reassuringly traditional at the same time and it is never a chore to listen to Lisa Bowerman’s sexy voice. It is rather like Ish’s older, wiser and more successful brother.