Doctor Who’s ‘Destiny of the Doctor’ series reaches its fourth instalment with ‘Babblesphere’, a tale for Tom Baker’s Doctor and Lalla Ward’s Romana. Written by Jonathan Morris, the play is performed by Ward with Roger Parrott.
Arriving on the Earth colony of Hephastos, the time travellers come across a replica of the palace of Versailles encased in a geodesic dome and set amid a harsh volcanic landscape. Within, they find an artistic commune where the perils of social media are writ large.
Endeavouring to further democracy and artistic collaboration, the whole community have become interlinked via implants to the Babblesphere and consequently share every thought. With all their time engaged in this social interaction, hashtagging their own speech and commenting on what they had for breakfast, the colonists have begun to waste away and the colony itself has fallen into ruin.
After discovering a corpse, it is not too long before the Doctor and Romana are identified as rogue elements by the administrating AI, represented in the form its robotic servitors the Pedisequads. Imprisoned under the threat of being forcibly joined to the network, stakes are heightened as both K-9 and the sonic screwdrivers inconveniently remain on the TARDIS workbench.
Extending a modern phenomenon to its sci-fi conclusion, there is a similarity to the thinking that brought about last month’s ‘The Bells of Saint John’ episode. It is something Doctor Who has always been very good at, finding the potential for menace in the everyday world around us.
The tale is rooted well in its time, couched in Season 17 humour but making social comment too for as well as the danger of wasting away, the Babblesphere has devised a particularly novel method of raising the quality of interaction by brutally unfollowing the dullest of its interactors.
Morris has the banter between the two Gallifreyans just right and Lalla Ward’s impersonation of Tom Baker sits happily on the right side of parody. She also gets to portray a range of amusing characters in the colony too when Romana is rescued by a resistance force, the non-conformists.
John Parrot’s role as Aurelius fits well in the tale and he has plenty to do in revealing the background to the situation. From a production point of view, mention must be made of the excellent vintage computer sound effects which match up with the descriptions of 1970’s style futuristic equipment.
As with the other episodes in this series there is a hint towards a wider story. A cameo appearance from someone the Eleventh Doctor comes at the end of a sequence where the Doctor and Romana are making up trivial top five lists, and the Fourth’s one-liner regarding his appearance afterwards is priceless.
In fact, with a fistful of Who trivia bandied about here from classic and modern references through to Big Finish, who is to know if there are any further nods forward to continuing tale other than the obvious?
The adventure wraps up in what feels like a relatively easy fashion and we expected the harsh environment outside the colony to play a part. However, there is nothing wrong with an insane computer system and ‘Babblesphere’ truly captures the spirit of its time, satirising the perils of social media and our desire to be continually updated in highly entertaining fashion.
Released on Thursday 4 April 2013 by AudioGO.
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