An Ideal World (by Ian Potter) is the October 2018 release from the Big Finish Doctor Who Early Adventures range. Like last month’s Dalek Occupation Of Winter, it’s a First Doctor story with Maureen O’Brien narrating and playing Vicki, Peter Purves narrating, playing Steven Taylor and the Doctor and a full cast.
The setup is deceptively simple. The TARDIS lands on a world barely capable of supporting life, not knowing an Earth ship is in orbit surveying with a view to colonisation. Their ship travels slower than light, so the crew had to resort to cryosleep to survive the journey. Before long the TARDIS team are separated, the weather deteriorates, and terraforming drones go rogue adding and extra threat. All that, and something else is already living on the planet, with its own agenda.
There’s plenty of ingredients, though in the end An Ideal World is a mixed bag. The narration and performances from Maureen and Peter are both strong but the plot is a curious mix of elements that seem both authentic to 1960s Doctor Who and very up to date. The plot also spends a lot of time putting the Doctor out of action to allow Peter time to perform just one part, then bringing him back into the picture. It rather inhibits the development of the characters of the crew and a proper exploration of ethical issues raised by the theme of colonisation and dealing with others.
It’s also quite bleak. The setting is before both Steven and Vicki’s time, and humanity is fairly primitive with regards space exploration (as Steven points out a lot), coming fully armed on a mission of exploration and discovery. The ending is also more a semicolon than a full-stop, with no clean-cut outcome. This is normally to be desired in making rounded stories, but this time it feels unsatisfactory. It’s not a fault of the performances, directing or any post-production, merely that the story overall spends too long on one thread. It’s not a bad way to spend two hours, just not as immediately compelling as last month’s release.