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Masquerade was the one hundred and eighty-seventh story in Big Finish's monthly range. It was written by Stephen Cole and featured Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, Sarah Sutton as Nyssa and Francesca Hunt as Hannah Bartholemew.
France, the year 1770: by special invitation, the famous "Doctor", friend of Voltaire, arrives at the lonely estate of the lovely Marquise de Rimdelle – once a hostess to the highest of high society, now isolated by the strange, pernicious mist that lingers round the countryside.
But there's more in that fog than mere vapour, confesses the Marquise's strange niece to the Doctor's ward, Nyssa. She senses some uncanny machine circling the fringes of the estate, in the space between the shadows. Watching. Always watching. She's given it a name: "the Steamroller Man".
Meanwhile, the man in the cellar talks to the Doctor; a dead man, trapped behind the cellar walls. The Steamroller Man is coming, he says; coming to smash the place down. It seems the Doctor has been drawn into a very dangerous liaison...
The Doctor, Nyssa and Hannah arrive at the salon of the Marquise De Rimdell, near Paris in the year 1770. The countryside around them is beset by a strange fog. Also at the estate are the Marquise's guest, the Vicomte de Valdac, her niece, Helene, and their butler, Jean.
The Doctor, Nyssa and Hannah are seemingly here at De Rimdell’s invitation although no one, including De Rimdelle, can remember why.
Somewhere, a crazed man, who calls himself a "Dead Man," is preoccupied with the whereabouts of rats and the imminent arrival of someone called the Steamroller Man.
De Valdac escorts Nyssa and Hannah to the Orangery to meet Helene, who is preoccupied with tending to flowers and exotic, caged birds. Both Nyssa and Hannah are disorientated by the strange fog surrounding the grounds, and both show signs of their memories being affected. Nyssa believes she can hear machinery in the distance, getting closer.
While Nyssa remains in the Orangery with Helene, De Valdac takes Hannah for a stroll through the grounds. They come to an incongruous Chinese pagoda. Hannah’s memories and notions as to who she really is become increasingly clouded.
De Rimdelle entertains the Doctor back at the salon. The Doctor displays confusion as to his true persona, and becomes agitated when he realises he is now attired in period dress, complete with powdered periwig. De Rimdelle takes offence at the Doctor’s outburst, calling for Jean, her servitor, to eject the Doctor from her property.
The Doctor believes some agency is at work trying to trap them all here. He wants to find Jean too, in an effort to somehow piece together what is happening. He and De Rimdelle search the wine cellar, where the Doctor hears the voice of the Dead Man in the darkness. De Rimdelle, however, hears nothing.
In the Orangery, Helene shows signs to Nyssa of knowing more than she lets on about the strangeness perpetuating the house and the grounds. Nyssa is again disturbed by the sounds of approaching machinery. Helene says it is the Steamroller Man getting closer.
As night falls, De Rimdelle enters the Orangery. Hannah and De Valdac then return. Hannah is now of the full belief that she is Nyssa’s governess, and the Doctor is a visiting physician from England. Helene now believes they are in imminent danger and they must get back to the house.
They meet the Doctor in the grounds outside. He too implores the party to return to the house, believing them to be under attack by an unknown force. Helene, previously of sounder mind than the others, begins to talk of “shadow space,” before succumbing to a seizure. De Rimdelle and De Valdac move to take Helene back to the house.
By now the approaching machinery has reached the tree line. Suddenly, a huge, shadowy, mechanical behemoth - the Steamroller Man - looms through the fog, towering over the Doctor and Nyssa.
Two glowing, humanoid figures wearing masks appear - the Maschera. They save the Doctor, Nyssa and Hannah by creating a trench between them and the Steamroller Man, who retreats.
Investigating the trench, the trio can perceive only moving shadows within. Hannah’s real memories start to return. They retreat to the house.
Back at the house, De Rimdelle, De Valdac and Helene’s real memories are restored. De Rimdelle is a systems chief. De Valdac is a neurologist, and Helen is a professor and senior member of their party. They are all part of an expedition across intergalactic space. Their minds are being held in a physical virtual reality created out of a pocket-dimension called “shadow space,” to survive the strains of warp mechanics.
The arrival of the TARDIS appears to have caused a systems crash in shadow space, destroying the interfaces back to the home dimension and creating a rampaging nightmare out of the Steamroller Man - originally designed by fellow crewman Jean to iron out any systems errors in shadow space. The Meschara are a program designed to protect the safety of the crew in shadow space.
Outside, the Steamroller Man reaches the end of the trench and begins to advance towards the house. Helen says they must get back to their home dimension, but the Maschera say that it’s impossible because of the burnt out interfaces.
The space crew propose the Steamroller Man may actually be pursuing the Dead Man in the cellar, as the Meschara have labelled the man "anomalous data," and the Steamroller Man was designed to detect and eliminate any such occurrences in shadow space.
Nyssa and Valdac search for the Dead Man in the cellar. They find him - and discover he only has dark shadows where his eyes should be. Valdac doesn’t recognise him as part of the crew.
The Meschara appear affected by the system crash too, and they vanish before they can stop the Steamroller Man, who attacks the house. The Doctor manages to ward it off by rigging up a continuous, self-repairing wall by tinkering with the architectural circuits in a fireplace - in truth one of the burnt-out interfaces. The Steamroller Man soon seems to give up its attack, glowing red and disappearing.
In the cellar, Nyssa and Valdac are startled by the arrival of the sounds of the Steamroller Man approaching them in the darkness.
Back upstairs with the Doctor and Hannah, Rimdelle attempts to locate the main dimensional interface by connecting herself to the shadow space circuitry. Suddenly Rimdelle is taken over by another entity, who through her proclaims, “no one can leave shadow space. You're all going to die.”
Rimdelle passes out, and the Doctor leaves Hannah and Helen to look after her, while he heads to the cellars to rescue Nyssa and Valdac from the Steamroller Man.
In the cellars, Nyssa and Valdac are supporting the Dead Man as they flee through the spatially-shifting environment, the Steamroller Man close behind. The Dead Man obsesses over finding his rats, before seeming to have a moment of lucidity.
The Doctor encounters two Meschara in a hallway, who warn him against tampering further with the architectural controls. They refuse to tell the Doctor where the main interface to the home dimension is located, because as an alien he is not authorised in shadow space. The Doctor convinces the Meschara he may be able to help them defeat the Steamroller Man.
It’s getting light outside. The architectural configuration is altered across the whole estate. From the house, Hannah and Helen notice the Orangery is closer than usual, which triggers a realisation in Helen - she spent so much time there as Helene, because as team leader she wanted to maintain close proximity to the main interface.
The Doctor locates Nyssa, Valdac and the Dead Man in the cellars. Nyssa believes the Dead Man and the Steamroller Man, through their ravings and chants, may be communicating with each other.
Helen rouses Rimdelle, who talks of encountering something cold and lifeless while connected to the interface. The Doctor, Nyssa, Valdac and the Dead Man return. They all head to the Orangery, Nyssa and Hannah supporting the Dead Man.
At the Orangery, Rimdelle, Helen, Valdac and the Doctor find a destroyed Maschera, hooked up to the generator engine of the main interface - which has been severed. There now seems to be no way back to the home dimension.
Outside in the grounds, the Dead Man has become too heavy for Nyssa and Hannah to support. The Doctor joins them, suggesting the Dead Man and the Steamroller Man are connected somehow, and they must be kept apart. The Doctor and Helen head back to the Orangery to find a way to destroy it once and for all. Nyssa, much to the Doctor's anxiety, elects to keep watch over the Dead Man.
The Doctor helps Rimdelle tinker with the interface, in an attempt to focus the spatial distortion and direct it at the Steamroller Man, thereby destroying it. Helen orders Valdac to go outside and estimate the distance between them and the Steamroller Man.
Outside, Valdac and Nyssa are seized in the unbreakable grip of the Dead Man, who refuses to let them go as the Steamroller Man advances on all three of them.
In the Orangery, Rimdelle is unable to draw on the intra-dimensional energy needed to focus the distortion - suggesting that in the real world, their ship is not in flight after all. Which poses the question as to why they are all in shadow space in the first place...
The Doctor rushes outside to help Valdac and Nyssa escape from the Dead Man’s grip, but before the Doctor can reach them, the Steamroller Man bears down on top of them. Hannah drags the distraught Doctor back to the Orangery.
While the Doctor, Rimdelle, Helen and Hannah attempt to trap the Steamroller Man in another architectural occlusion field, the Meschara appear and try to take over, refusing to allow the Doctor to interfere.
As it destroys the Orangery wall, the Steamroller Man is trapped in the occlusion field created by Rimdelle, who passes out. When the Doctor demands the Meschara explain to them why they are in shadow space when the ship isn’t in flight, the Meschara seize the Doctor and force him into the occlusion field.
Nyssa awakes; her voice sounds strange to her ears. She’s strapped to a gurney, two Meschara looking over her, one of whom gives the order to kill her.
to be added
- The Doctor - Peter Davison
- Nyssa - Sarah Sutton
- Hannah Bartholemew - Francesca Hunt
- Hélène - Rebecca Night
- Marquise De Rimdelle - Victoria Hamilton
- Vicomte de Valdac - David Chittenden
- Steamroller Man/Maschera Prime/Other Maschera - Andrew Dickens
- Dead Man/Maschera - Sean Brosnan
- The Doctor tells Nyssa and Hannah that the Marquise de Rimdelle's estate room is decorated in the rococo style.
- Voltaire was expelled from the French court by Louis XV in 1758.
- The Doctor describes Traken and Gallifrey as "lovely worlds, both of them."
- This story was recorded on 8 and 9 May 2013 at The Moat Studios.
- Subscribers whose subscriptions included this story also received the audio short story Late Night Shopping.
- Just as with the previous release, Francesca Hunt isn't credited on the Big Finish page, but plays a much more prominent role in this story.
- The Doctor tells the Marquise De Rimdelle that he has visited Paris before, at which time he saw the Mona Lisa. (TV: City of Death)
- The Doctor initially cannot recall how he met Hannah. (AUDIO: Moonflesh)
- The Doctor refers to Catherine de Medici and tells the Marquise that he was present for the St Bartholomew's Day massacre in Paris on 24 August 1572. (TV: The Massacre)
- Nyssa recalls tending the Grove as a child on Traken. (TV: The Keeper of Traken)
- Hannah tells Helen that she is a member of the Order of the Crescent Moon. (AUDIO: Moonflesh)