The Doomsday Contract was a storyline originally developed during Douglas Adams tenure as Doctor Who Script Editor. Written by his friend and sometime Hitchhiker’s Guide collaborator John Lloyd, it was put aside when the writer became too busy with other work.
Now, approximately forty-two years later, drawing on two original synopsis documents, adaptor Nev Fountain has brought the witty and wildly imaginative tale to life.
Hyperspace Bypass anyone?
The story beings with the TARDIS crew relaxing (principally to deliver a brilliant gag about the quality of holiday souvenirs). When the Doctor is summoned as an expert witness to intergalactic court proceedings, he finds himself in an invidious position. The Earth, long protected under a preservation order, is under threat of redevelopment by the Cosmegalon Corporation. The planet can be saved if the Doctor testifies that it contains intelligent life. However, should he do so, he risks incriminating himself; the planet should be off-limits to visitors thanks to the same preservation restrictions which protect it.
Legal shenanigans ensure, presided over by Judge Perigord Trent (Julian Wadham), a bigwig more interested in lengthy lunches and vaporising people than justice. Set against the Doctor and his allies is Skorpious – a capricious, mega-rich villain with the legal system wrapped around his tentacles. As the case proceeds, we explore the lunacy of a witness protection programme in a micro-universe, assassins that no-one remembers and a lost jury who refuse to deliver a verdict.
Tom Baker simply flies though the script and it is a joy to hear. As Romana, Lalla Ward serves as a voice of relative sanity throughout and K9 (John Leeson) is well utilised. He gets to deliver a couple of zingers too. In the guest cast, we enjoyed Paul Panting as Smilax, the Doctor’s old friend, and Richard Laing is a scene-stealer as the villainous Skorpious. Jeany Spark entertains as the put-upon Tragacanth, the lawyer charged with defending the Earth, too.
The Doomsday Contract is fast and funny, steeped in comedy as it takes pot-shots at bureaucracy and the corporate outsourcing. There is so much going on here that it will doubtless take a few listens to catch all the jokes. Director Nicholas Briggs keeps the pace frenetic and he also stars as the Foreman of the Lost Jury too. With pitch-perfect sound design and a delightful score from Howard Carter, we can easily imagine the story sitting alongside Season 17 bedfellows like City of Death and Shada. The story happily plays up the Hitchhiker’s tone throughout too; if you love that, you’re bound to like this. Big Finish have even produced a terrific video promo in the style of a guide entry…
This story’s lengthy journey to the recording studio is genuinely fascinating, demonstrating the tenacity of producer David Richardson; chronicled in the Extras, it is well worth a listen. We were a touch disappointed not to hear from John Lloyd himself, although there is considerable input from writer Nev Fountain.
Further Lost Stories?
Might this be the last such project, save for the recently announced, Russell T Davies penned Mind of the Hodiac? To be honest, Return of the Cybermen and 2019’s Nightmare Country and The Ultimate Evil were a surprise; we imagine the well is pretty much dry now for pre-2005 material.
Instead, how about some more recent Lost Stories? We can think of a few… such as Stephen Fry’s abandoned 1920s era tale, planned for Series 2. Or how about Mark Gatiss’ The Suicide Exhibition or Tom McCrae’s Century House, both considered for Series 4? It is hard to imagine such ideas have not already been discussed at Big Finish Towers!
Doctor Who The Lost Stories: The Doomsday Contract is available on download and CD from Big Finish.