Tony Jones and Ian McArdell review this month’s new Doctor Who plays from Big Finish…
Main Range 201: ‘We are the Daleks’
Kicking off a new trilogy of stories, and reuniting the Seventh Doctor and Mel, we find the TARDIS arriving in 1987 to a surprise – a thumping great Dalek shaped building present on Threadneedle Street in the City of London.
Both the Time Lord and his companion go undercover to investigate, the Doctor posing as a stockbroker while Mel trades on her computer skills to gain a job in the IT department inside the building.
Against a backdrop of industrial relations and politics, as well as an addictive new computer game called Warfleet, Jonathan Morris’ tale plays with the themes of imperialism and economic power.
Mel (Bonnie Langford) is well employed, getting to use her computer skills and is even repositioned as a highly skilled hacker as she looks into the Warfleet game. Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor gets to recruit a pseudo companion in reporter Serena Paget (Kirsty Besterman) for his investigations, but the standout guest star has to by Mary Conlon whose ghastly Thatcherite political survivor Celia Dunthorpe is one we hope to hear again.
A story with epic scale and plenty of humour, plus shades of Eighties movies like The Last Starfighter, ‘We Are The Daleks’ questions how far from the Dalek mentality we are as a society ourselves. It also carries one of the worst, or best Dalek puns we have heard in a while… “Hook, line and sink-plunger!”
The 4th Doctor Adventures 4.07: ‘The Fate of Krelos’
The planet of Krelos is on the cusp of planet wide connectivity”, an “internet of things” writ large promising technology to give everyone a better standard of living.
Innocently enough, the Doctor and Leela arrive on Krelos for a fishing trip. Taking its time and enjoying the strength of this pairing, Nicholas Briggs script is happy to dwell on the interaction between the Tom Baker and Louise Jameson’s characters without hurtling into action.
A threat does develop on board though, as K-9’s interaction with the TARDIS’ architectural circuits brings up an earlier version of the console room. With an unseen threat at play, John Leeson impresses as the robot dog whose motives become open to question.
Outside, the Doctor and Leela encounter a local, Geralk, and his tragic tale is wound beautifully into the escalating threat on the planet. Michael Cochrane (‘Black Orchid’, ‘GhostLight’) puts in a touching performance as the old man and Veronica Roberts is brilliant as his cleaner Relly.
The Fate of Krelos provides a pleasing change of pace and we were thrilled to spend some time in the TARDIS boot cupboard looking for fishing rods, as well as to hear a mention of the food machine and have Tom Baker reminisce for a former companion.
While there was a reasonable amount of ground laying for the season finale at play, pleasingly the story did not pan out as we expected given the name of the planet. Instead, it provided an entertaining opener and built to a fantastic cliff-hangering climax – leaving us hungry for next month’s ‘Return to Telos’.
Short Trips 5.07: ‘Dark Convoy’
The latest Short Trips story was ‘Dark Convoy’ by Mark B Oliver, a writer who has also penned a few Doctor Who shorts available on the BBC website. In this grim tale, set in the North Atlantic during World War II, Ace and the Doctor appear on the HMS Thunder and it’s not long before the reality of war is rammed home.
The story is read by Sophie Aldred (Ace from the TV series) who manages a whole range of voices, including a very Scottish version of McCoy’s Seventh Doctor. The story is full of characters from Captain Fitzgerald through to any number of seamen from both the Thunder and another vessel, and Sophie brings them all to life with great success.
The story is also well supported with sound effects – wind, waves, klaxons, explosions and so forth. Events are such that the Doctor needs to walk the fine line between helping and interfering in history, and some of the decisions made leave Ace angry and frustrated.
This is everything a short story should be – memorable, gripping and complete in and of itself.
What was your favourite Doctor Who release from Big Finish this month? Let us know below…