Doctor Who: The Lovecraft Invasion is Robert Valentine’s look at the famed horror author through the lense of a Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama. Featuring a living weapon that feeds on the fears of its host, the tale quickly centers upon the titular author and takes a look at his creations and his flaws.
The story hammers home the fact that H.P. Lovecraft was a bigot. This will be news to very few who are aware of his history, though the debate about how best to engage with said racism is ongoing. The Doctor, played wonderfully by Colin Baker, cannot bring himself to enjoy an author he finds morally abhorrent, and his companion Flip is inclined to agree. The two of them discuss the matter early on, and also once they find that they must enter into Lovecraft’s mind in an effort to stop his fears becoming manifest. It is, truthfully, an excellent plot device for a story featuring a horror legend. The only downside is that often declarations are made without demonstration. The fact Lovecraft still loves his ex-wife is implied, and the fact she belonged to a group (Jewish people) he claimed to hate is brought up. Yet this is merely an attack rather than an attempt to address or grapple with Lovecraft’s hypocrisy.
Alan Marriott is cast as H.P. Lovecraft. He is also, appropriately, cast as Randolph Carter. His accent is decidedly wrong for the former, but his performance as the latter is very much appropriate. Ultimately, it seems likely the casting was very specific to finding a man who could do both. Factoring that in he is more than serviceable.
A new companion, Calypso, is introduced for this story. One obvious reason for this was to include a person of color to contrast the mostly white cast, particularly in relation to Lovecraft’s racism. She is a genderfluid bisexual of mixed race from the distant future, and brings exactly this up to Lovecraft. The fact he seems to understand all of the terminology, much of which is outside his time, might annoy some listeners. Calypso nonetheless makes an interesting addition to the story, and one that is promising for future appearances.
The final speech by the Doctor, given to Calypso in regard to people with horrible views, is excellent, and manages to be hopeful without whitewashing anything or focusing too greatly upon the details. It improves upon the many other speeches he has in the tale, including the long takedown Lovecraft received for daring to compare himself to the Doctor. It is a speech that seems angrier than one would expect, given the Doctor has tried to redeem despots and dictators. On the other hand it is personal, with the oddly moving act of the Doctor sending his companions on ahead before he begins.
The use of Lovecraft’s material is clever, although the characters’ disdain makes it seem slightly strange that it is all presented in grand fashion. Also, the presence of Lovecraftian elements in other Doctor Who stories is not really addressed. As most of these happened to a later doctor, it is only the fact they are treated as only in Lovecraft’s mind here that makes this somewhat contradictory. Still, anyone expecting a lack of contradictions likely isn’t looking into Doctor Who to begin with.
Overall The Lovecraft Invasion was a fun listen. It will not convert any listener who does not already appreciate Doctor Who or the works of H.P. Lovecraft, yet it is a nice adventure and definitely worth checking out. Rarely does one receive a thoughtful look at a franchise or author during a crossover, and Robert Valentine is to be congratulated for it.
(Big Finish, 2020)