- Publié sur Amazon.com
Werewolves. Do you like them? I don't. It's a concept that's never held any appeal for me. That makes Loups-Garoux a difficult audio drama for me to review, then, because despite its many strengths, it's predicated on the listener having a certain amount of sympathy for vicious, racist werewolves. I have no sympathy for them at all.
Rio de Janeiro, the not-too-far distant future. Ileana de Santos, a wealthy widow with multiple suitors, flees the city for her ranch when a hated face from her past reappears. Turlough's hopes for fun at Carnival are dashed when the Doctor insists on trying to warn a party of travellers on a train being pursued out of the station by a huge wolf. Out in the desert where the rainforest once stood, Rosa Caiman, the last of her tribe, begins her quest to find the future. But what protection do any of them have against the ancient evil of Peeter Stubbe? Danger lurks without and within ...
Loups-Garoux has a strong and imaginative script. So many little details, of location, characterisation and dialogue add to the unfolding narrative. The production choices add to this, with the mix of direct dialogue, phone conversations and recorded messages moving the story along while providing variety. The music and accents help create atmosphere, though I can't say I felt the "Brazilianness" of it all. The guest characters were all distinctive and well used, and their portrayal solid. Peter Davison (the Doctor) and guest star Eleanor Bron (Ileana) really are excellent here, inhabiting their characters individually and playing especially well off each other. Nicky Henson, who plays Peeter Stubbe with evil charm, also deserves a special mention. The story loses momentum in the fourth and final episode, with the sense of risk not as strong as it needed to be and the werewolf problem resolved easily and not entirely satisfactorily. Not being up-to-date on my werewolf lore, I can't say whether there's anything particularly innovative about the way the mythology is used here, but a lot of the elements were new to me.
I don't think you need to be a Doctor Who fan to enjoy this one. It's a strong story in its own right which could have a particular appeal for werewolf fans. It's very atmospheric, and a cut above most of the Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas I've heard.
As I said above, though, werewolves have no appeal for me, and while I recognise this audio drama's strengths, I don't actually like it that much. Following are some reflections on why I found it difficult to warm to.
Ileana de Santos is the linchpin of the story. Yet despite the excellence of Eleanor Bron's performance, I can't stand Ileana. I assume we're supposed to see her as principled and tragic. But to me, she's a high-handed, self-centred b*tch (ha ha) who expects everyone to defer to her and, when push comes to shove, doesn't give a rat's donkey about the humans she claims to value. I guess that's why she's a werewolf, then. Certainly she values humans less than she values her self-image as one who's risen above her baser nature (though only when convenient to her). It's never really made clear how she leads or how much control she has over her fellow werewolves, hence the less than satisfactory resolution to their attack on Rio, and she seems to use them for her own convenience as she does everyone else. I found it impossible to feel sorry for her, and her constant moan of "my son" annoyed me intensely.
The other character I couldn't stand is Rosa. Her dialogue is hokey and embarrassing, and as played by Sarah Gale she sounds more like a chirpy American teen than a Brazilian villager. The forest spirits in her head going "yada, yada, yada"? The conflict with Stubbe is "My goddamn fight?" Cringeworthy.
These two female characters are also used to add the suggestion of romance to the story. To me, this is quite wrong. To take Turlough and Rosa, he describes her as a kid and makes it clear he hates humans, whereas as she describes herself as the "Jaguar Maiden" on a sacred quest. The likelihood that anything actually happened between them, despite the Doctor's assumption, is zero. As for the Doctor and Ileana ... On her side, there seems no reason for it except that she wants someone to fight her battles for her (why can't she fight them herself?) and her conviction that she's irresistible. More unpleasant character traits to add all the rest, then. As for the Doctor, why would he go along with the idea of marrying her, even for a moment? There's altruism, and then there's unbelievable characterisation. I found myself wondering whether someone was uncomfortable with the idea of two men alone in the TARDIS and threw this gratuitous romance angle in to divert listeners from the suspicion that there's more than friendship between the Doctor and Turlough.
Yet I'd happily embrace the feeling that there is at least friendship between the two of them, because in Loups-Garoux there doesn't seem to be any real warmth or respect in their relationship. That said, the Fifth Doctor never seems to care much for his companions, with the possible exception of Nyssa. Turlough's characterisation felt off to me - too dark, too nasty, with traits not even hinted at in the TV series - but the scriptwriter is entitled to his own interpretation and Turlough's actions do help drive the narrative. Mark Strickson delivers a strong performance here, as usual.
Then there's the werewolf issue. In Loups-Garoux they're vicious, racist and contemptuous towards humans, and extremely powerful. Characterised like this, I saw no reason to care what happened to any of them. It's understandable that the Doctor would see them and their unique culture as worthy of protection. It's not so understandable that he stands by while they murder Dr Hayashi and doesn't seek a commitment from Ileana in return for his assistance that humans are off-limits for their sport and feeding. He seems overly naïve when it comes to her supposed respect for humans and her ability to control her fellow werewolves. Or does he see the occasional murder as part of their culture and therefore excusable?
Finally, why refer to "the Corcovado" and "the statue of Christ"? Why not call the giant statue in Rio by the name everyone knows, Christ the Redeemer? It's an odd choice that didn't help me fix the geography of this story.