The Short Trips format offers writers a chance to be as ‘out there’ as they desire, stretching Doctor Who’s ever-flexible format into almost any direction and none more so than in Simon A Forward’s latest offering, a rather unusual murder mystery tale for the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan.
Set within a curious community of anthropomorphised animals, imagine a blend somewhere between The Tales Of Beatrix Potter and Wind In The Willows, the story begins with Nyssa welcoming guests for tea before she takes them through a series of events which build up to an accusation of murder, Agatha Christie style.
Channelling her best Poirot, while Tegan grudgingly serves the refreshments and butts in with outraged asides, we build up a picture of this unusual world and its inhabitants; the brash fox Colonel Fortinbrush, scientific hedgehog Professor Picklethwort, twitchy squirrel Miss Tabitha Nutkins, bumptious badger Reverend Brockley, timid bat Miss Felicity Nightheart… and the victim, Ginger Hopkins the rabbit.
Of course, there is another missing piece to this puzzle – the fate of the Doctor, who rushed off on their arrival to meet the creator and bio-engineer Lyndsay Wood. Sadly, the architect of this world has passed on and it is her legacy which has triggered these events – with some of humanity’s stronger emotions coming to the fore in her creations, as well as their animal passions.
The Mistpuddle Murders may be bonkers, but it is delightfully so and also thought-provoking at its conclusion – despite the surprising environment, the story proceeds with all the fun and misdirection of the best whodunnits and Sarah Sutton is an entertaining narrator, giving amusing voices to this menagerie, as well as aping Janet Fielding’s Tegan with gusto.