The Meaning of Red, the latest narrated Short Trip, is drawn from the end of the Fifth Doctor’s era. A Doctor-lite tale, it focuses on the character of Peri, still finding her feet as a member of the TARDIS crew.
When the Doctor is forced to dematerialise, Peri finds herself marooned on the unwelcoming planet of Calleto. She is rescued by the remains of a survey team, there to assess the planet’s suitability for colonisation. However, on arrival, the crew found the promising environment seemingly turn against them. With some of their number dead, and rescue unlikely, their future looks bleak. As does Peri’s when weeks pass without the Doctor’s return – and something starts to kill off the team one by one.
Writer Rod Brown, in his Big Finish debut, creates a slowly evolving mystery with an ecological message. As well as considering Peri’s relative inexperience, he plays to her strengths as a botany student; always a treat, as this aspect of her character was often forgotten! Finding both a mentor and her place within the team, the crew become a surrogate family of sorts. Together, they try to unlock the puzzle of the red flowers – the only plant life which grows on Calleto.
While a mystery, the story is not without its scares and there are some wonderfully descriptive images, not least the final scenes where the ground cracks! One thing which amused us, perhaps unintentionally, was Peri’s lack of interest in meeting Capability Brown; we fully expected there to be a gag or a nod regarding their shared surname. A distant relative perhaps?
Nicola Bryant is an excellent, enthusiastic narrator and she easily recreates the early Peri, who does plenty of growing up within the story.
In danger of being overlooked amid the rush of the Time War and Time Lord Victorious releases, The Meaning of Red is a thoughtful character piece and well worth a listen. It is also one of the lengthier Short Trips, at almost forty-five minutes long, and presented with another striking Mark Plastow cover.