Wendy Padbury narrates this charming tale which brings the TARDIS and her crew, the Second Doctor, highlander Jamie McCrimmon and the futuristic astrophysicist Zoe Herriot to London’s South Bank in 1951, for the Festival of Britain.
The first quarter of an hour of the play’s unhurried forty-two minutes is made up of some delightful character work. The Doctor is alive in this environment, for the most part thrilled by the history and the futuristic predictions on display, and we hear both Jamie and Zoe’s perspectives on the celebration at hand; while he feels saddened at what feels like royalist propaganda, she marvels at the scale with her mathematical brain seeing patterns in crowds – so alien to her given her cosseted upbringing. It all feels like an authentic episode one of a classic story.
When the trio come across a downhearted scientist, whose exhibit fails to live up to its promise of sending and receiving messages from the moon, they are moved to help her – but the Doctor is, for once, rightly wary of intervening or doing anything too anachronistic. This dilemma also provides a laugh out loud moment, as Jamie rightly points out that the system might work better at night when the moon is out!
The setting is wonderfully detailed, with Ian Potter’s script giving a real flavour of a spectacle that most listeners likely too young to have experienced, but might have heard about from a relative or learned about at school (as we did). This rich texture is far from just window dressing though, as the story is soundly constructed with all the groundwork required for the conclusion deftly embedded in that opener – and there’s an underlying theme which is thoroughly satisfying and thought-provoking too.
For her part, Wendy Padbury provides some lively narration, with a rather good rendition of Jamie (and some post production lending a hand for parts over a walkie-talkie), and also a great recreation of Patrick Troughton’s breathy performance.
All in all, this is a cracking little Doctor Who tale and another terrific example of what can be achieved in this short story, narrated format.