Baker’s End: Review: 1 The King of Cats

baker s endBafflegab, out now

Eccentric English actor Tom has died – and everyone is gathering for his funeral… But how exactly did he die?

If there was a feline equivalent of something being “barking mad”, then that would be the most appropriate description for this hour of pure insanity, courtesy of Messrs. Baker and Magrs, helped immeasurably by Katy Manning and Susan Jameson and the rest of the cast. If you thought that Tom Baker was playing Tom more than the Doctor in the Nest Cottage adventures, then this will confirm it, as he brings his love of the English language to bear on this tale of Happenstance and coincidence (which I suspect is probably the name of the neighbouring village!).

Trying to describe the plot is pretty pointless: there are ghastly goings-on, reincarnations and surprise returns, doppelgangers with an uncanny way of dealing with their enemies, a Chinese dragon with unbelievable powers… There are plenty of references to items in Tom’s career (the object in his garden had me groaning out loud when I learned what it was), and his putative cause of death is possibly the first time that Rod Hull and Logopolis have been mixed successfully.

It’s all a backdrop for Tom to have fun in the studio, and everyone involved goes along with it. There aren’t many times when Katy Manning is playing the sane centre around which everything revolves and she’s clearly enjoying it; Susan Jameson is a madder version of her Wibsey from Nest Cottage while David Benson, Lizzie Roper and Stuart Denman throw themselves into playing the cast of eccentrics.

At times it feels as if it’s an episode of the Mrs Peel era Avengers without the benefit of Steed and Emma as lodestones for sanity; at others, it’s a pantomime. But throughout, it’s a joy to listen to!

Verdict: Merksome and swervish in its scobberlotching lunacy! 8/10

Paul Simpson

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