Thrown for a Loup

Review of Loups-Garoux (#20)
Big Finish Release Date: May 2001
Doctor/Companion: Five and Turlough
Stars: Peter Davison and Mark Strickson
Preceding Story: Minuet in Hell (Eight, Charley, the Brigadier)
Succeeding Story: Dust Breeding (Seven, Ace)

It's not often that Doctor Who tackles widely familiar fantastical creatures (e.g., vampires), but when it does, it doesn't shy from calling out the popular mythos. That's part of why Loups-Garoux works as well as it does.

For me, it was my tabletop RPG background that clued me in, but those who know French will also have a good idea what they're in for the first time they look at the title of this adventure. In that sense, there was nothing surprising in the story. For the most part, it rolled out about as I expected: the Doctor and Turlough find themselves embroiled in a crisis among a group of werewolves in and around Rio de Janeiro in 2080.

While the Doctor identifies the werewolves' condition with a quasi-scientific name, and not everything they do matches with legend, there's no doubt that these are the traditional werewolves we expect from literature. They are pack animals whose behavior is strongly influenced by the lupine side of their nature, silver harms them, and they are long-lived. For fans of werewolf stories, then, this audio adventure is a win.

There are, however, a couple of disparate plot threads tied together by the existence of a specific "big bad wolf" that get mashed together at high speed in a way that was, to me personally, unsatisfying. Some listeners might enjoy the way they get tied neatly in a bow at the very end, but to me it came across as very contrived, and I didn't find it believable enough.

My other, largest beef with the story was the character of Rosa. Although she herself was interesting, I was troubled by the stereotypical depiction of her as a Native person. In particular, the way she has a mystical connection with the (now dead) forest and is last of a dead tribe really put me off. Those tropes are severely overused and serve to fetishize and erase the real and very-much-still-alive Native people of today, so it threw me out of the narrative at first. (Also, why would someone born and raised in Brazil—whether speaking Portuguese or a Native language—have an American accent? But I digress...)

Aside from questionable cultural stereotypes (and Rosa isn't necessarily the only one), the story is fun and engaging. There's a creepy Big Bad, some politics for the Doctor to unravel, and even an unwitting-sharing-of-cocoa kind of moment. The cast is, as ever, fantastic, and the script was (with the aforementioned exceptions) quite good.

I even rather liked Turlough, and I never could quite warm to him before. Perhaps it was the fact that he still came across here as not entirely trustworthy, even to himself—which is true to character—that made him believably the same person despite being more sympathetic than I think he was ever depicted on screen.

So it's another mixed bag for me—mostly good, but a few spots where it falls down. I'd still recommend it to those who are already fans of Big Finish, especially since the plot is plenty easy to follow without visuals (something with which I occasionally struggle on audio). Although some of it is fluff, there's enough story to sink your teeth into. Enjoy the meaty bits.

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