Set early on in his era, while travelling with Mel, the Doctor arrives in a Devonshire village in February 1855 to catch up with an old friend, the Reverend HT Ellacombe. More than just a stuffy Victorian man of the cloth, HT is a geologist, palaeontologist and zoologist too.
On arrival, the time travellers discover cloven-hoofed footprints in the snow – seemingly made by something two rather than four-legged – and the Doctor is soon on the hunt. However, when they catch up with the Doctor’s friend, Mel is perturbed by his decidedly frosty welcome.
The story captures the uneven manner of the early Seventh Doctor and in this instance grants him a charming preoccupation with fruitcake. It is not all Season 24 lightness though, as his darker hues do shine through too.
Bonnie Langford narrates and it was nice to be given an insight into Mel’s childhood, however brief, as well as to have her character take the lead in uncovering a mystery. While her Scots accent for Sylvester’s McCoy’s Doctor is a bit distracting to begin with, perhaps a bit too Scottish if that’s possible, it is also easy to get used to and she is an engaging narrator.
Writer Penelope Faith has created a charming, Gothic tinged tale which is ideal for a frosty winter’s evening. Henry Thomas Ellacombe was a real historical figure, a noted antiquarian, and the appearance of the footprints were a historical event which remain unexplained – it seems just the sort thing the Doctor might have had a hand in.