Hellgate Reviewed by Kathryn Sullivan

Hellgate review

FRIENDS OF DOCTOR WHO Volume 9, Number 2 Fall 1997

New in the TARDIS Multimedia Library

reviewed by Kathy Sullivan

"Hellgate", a "Videozine" from Spare Time Productions, is set in the 1920s. An occult writer attempts to stop a coven from calling something into being. Sometime later, the TARDIS materializes in the house. The Doctor and his Companion Samantha soon discover that the darkness outside the windows is the boundary of a pocket universe and that the house is not as deserted as they originally thought. There are people, but they appear and disappear, and the sounds of chanting or music come and go. It's only when the Doctor comes under psychic attack and Sam finds the occult writer's notes that they begin to learn what else is in the house. But then the TARDIS disappears.

Produced in 1995, "Hellgate" features an unknown Doctor portrayed by Patrick Degan and his companion Samantha (played by Elizabeth Meinert, and not to be confused with the new BBC books character). This Sam has long dark hair, wears ripped jeans, a denim jacket and a T-shirt and is definitely an American.

The story was shot in an actual mansion in New Orleans, which leads to the first problem common to all fan videos: sound quality. The dialog in the opening scene is difficult to hear, but fortunately, this scene is summarized again later in the video. There are some other sound problems: some sound effects go on too long and too loud and one sonic screwdriver effect is too short, but that is my only major complaint.

The script by Peter Knight is interesting and the pace slows only when the Doctor and the head of the coven attempt to have what seems to be a Dramatic Pause contest. It might have been plotted as the two trying to "out-haughty" each other, but I didn't feel that the scene worked as well as it could have. The very end of the video is slightly marred by what may be a continuity error.

Other than those problems, "Hellgate" is a well-done fan production. The story has a few predictable twists and some not so predictable. Both actors portraying the Doctor and Sam establish a believable Doctor-Companion relationship within moments of the TARDIS's arrival. Sam is a realistic teen companion — not as rebellious as Ace, but still fiercely protective, inquisitive, and caring — and the mixture works well. This Doctor knows more about psi phenomena than the Third Doctor and does more with a chalk circle than the Seventh Doctor. There are some nice computer effects, and the way the psychic 'incidents' are handled is reminiscent of those from The Omega Factor or The Sixth Sense.

Only 49 minutes long, "Hellgate" should appeal to those who also enjoy occult shows such as Kolchak the Nightstalker and Friday the 13th. For more information on "Hellgate" send a SASE to Pat Degan, 4641 Gaines Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70126 U.S.A.

(2001 addition)
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Sites of interest to sf/f writers, and especially e-authors:
Patricia Wrede's Worldbuilding
SFWA articles on writing
Broad Universe
YA Authors You’ve Never Heard Of
EPIC; Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition
New Voices Competition
eBook (Wikipedia)

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