REVIEW: Baker’s End (Paul Magrs)


bakersendEncapsulate the book (well, audio drama) in one sentence?

Welcome to the ‘murksome and swervish’ inside of Tom Baker’s head.

Intriguing, tell me more.

Tom Baker is dead, and hordes of actors are descending upon the village of Happenstance to mourn his departure. Thing is, things aren’t quite as they seem. For a start, there’s the elderly ladies about the village shooting lasers out of their knockers. For a second, there’s some shady monstrous villain in need of a decent telephone voice skulking about the place. And for a third, Tom Baker is not in fact dead, and may or may not be reincarnated as a giant cat. (What, is that not where you thought this summary might be going?)

 

Personal Choice, Book-Pot, Re-read…?

Fair disclosure: the author is a friend of mine, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting Baker’s End since the project first took seed back at Christmas ’15. An odd encounter with a street-dancing dragon (christened ‘Klacky’) at Christmas became a short story on Paul’s blog, which became an email conversation with Tom Baker (as detailed in the liner notes of the CD), and morphed into ever more crazy stories until eventually it became Baker’s End, a bonkers tour through the inside of Tom Baker’s head. Every detail I gleaned was more gloriously absurd than the next, and I was champing at the bit to hear the finished product.

What genre would you say it is?

At this point, I think the only genre I can label it as is ‘Magrsian’. There’s a bit of Doctor Who in there, a bit of Midsomer, and lots of shades of all sorts of other classic TV shows (including The Book Tower!). The closest analogue might be Magrs’ Nest Cottage audios (from which both Baker and Susan Jameson return) which took the familiar Who format and stuffed it full of magic and myth and whimsy. Baker’s End is playing along similar lines: a capering, camp knockabout that, though it often appears light and fluffy on the surface, conceals deep dark waters just below the surface.

Did you finish it? Did it work for you?

I’ve listened to Baker’s End three times now, and it gets better with every repeat. Given the heavy helping of absurdities that are thrown into the melting pot, the plot winds itself fairly tight for the first half, with the always-brilliant Katy Manning (as ex-costar Suzy Gozhawk) sniffing around the strange goings-on in Happenstance, but of course the real showstopper is Tom Baker as Tom Baker. But it’s more than that: this is Tom Baker as Tom Baker completely off the leash, with a gleefully barmy script that matches the full force of his personality, full of barnstorming, tongue-twisting wordplay and irreverent humour. It’s clear that every single person involved is having an absolute blast, and that joy sweeps you right along for the ride.

And, through the (pun unintended) happenstance of context, the appearance of Baker’s End at the end of a half-year full of celebrity deaths, unconcernedly parodying the death (and resurrection) of an entertainment icon lends a few extra shades of pathos to the whole affair. (And it further confirms my theory that if Bowie was holding this world together at the seams, Baker is probably the final thread still standing.)

So yes, in short, it definitely worked for me. I’ve read/listened to bordering on everything Paul Magrs has ever written (I’m a bit of a fanboy–can you tell?) and would unreservedly place this up there with the best he’s ever produced.

Give me a good quote:

There is one particular moment, involving the villain’s telephone conversation, that had me crying with laughter, but it’s untranscribeable, so instead, take a listen to the trailer, which gives an excellent idea of just what to expect:

Is it available today?

‘Tis indeed. Bafflegab got you covered. And while you’re there just, y’know, buy everything else they’ve ever put out. (In all seriousness, please do go buy, because that ups the chances of the series continuing past the next two planned installments.)

Soundtrack of choice: 

I really struggled to find something appropriate as my soundtrack choice, and this is as close as I can get, because honestly, did you not realise that your life is completely missing a trance remix of the Midsomer Murders theme?

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