1/8/2010. Contributed by Sue Davies
pub: Big Finish. 2 CDs 100 minutes. Price: CD £ 14.99, Download: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-450-4). cast: Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, John Benfield, Neville Watchurst, John Banks, Susan Brown, Toby Longworth and Alex Lowe.
check out web site www.BigFinish.com
The Sixth Doctor returns in another of the stories commissioned but not transmitted in the 1980s. This is a whale of tale which has curious resonances with the recent TV episodes 'The Beast Below'.
The story was continually re-worked but never made it into the series. Big Finish has scooped it up to include in their ever expanding 'Lost Stories' category. The writer, Pat Mills, has previously written stories, 'Dead London' and 'Scapegoat', for the Eighth Doctor on Big Finish.
The Doctor and Peri are caught by a space whaler and nearly suffer the same fate as the vast creatures the spaceships process. He is horrified that this is going on and wants to save the whale. It's also a little self-preservation as the whale has a time core which prevents the TARDIS from moving in time. They're back and this time they're green!
This is an odd story and there is plenty of weird behaviour in it. The story synopsis is unwieldy and frankly undoable. The inside of a whale didn't look realistic in the new mighty TV 'Doctor Who' which has plenty of money for whales. It works better in the brain than on the screen. We are not treated to exploding whales and the potential whale meat sandwich here but this has a whiff of Douglas Adams in its inception. Adams was the script editor on 'Doctor Who' when this was originally submitted and according to the CD extras there were plenty of angry comments about it on the script. The shipboard computer is definitely a distant cousin of Eddie in 'Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy' although when he is slipped a Mickey Finn by the Doctor it makes him come over all New Age. The captain is certainly the Gregory Peck Ahab from 'Moby Dick' as he seeks out blubber at all costs in a nicely judged psychotic part. We are also treated to the 'framily', who share some of the most unusual communal living.
There's lots in this. A little too much. It takes place in the main location of inside the whaling ship. There are several distinct characters and a couple of sub-plots. I got confused about the eventual outcome. A duo of security guards provides comedy relief and we have the solid figure of the female chief engineer (played by Susan Brown, who was Bridget Spears in 'Torchwood's 'Children Of Earth') who reassures Peri when she is confronted by a menace lurking in the corridors. Nicola Bryant as the excellent Peri has a tremendous opportunity to go all trippy when's she's pumped full of drugs. 'I'm not mental, I'm environmental,' she protests after being covered in spores by a fugitive. Lovely.
This story went through three doctors and was earmarked for Colin Baker but lost in the shuffle. It has been through the Mills and is now 30 years old. That doesn't seem to affect it. He has ramped it up for the audio and there is much more colour in it being driven by the characters rather than the plot.
There are many moments to enjoy but was a bit long-winded for me and by the time I got to the end I wasn't that bothered. It's best listened to in small chunks because in many ways the parts are better than the whole. I can't put my finger on why it didn't leave me with a wholly positive impression. Perhaps I'm suffering from Who-overload. Everything else holds up-still a quality cast, great sound, music, extras and Peri gets to shout, 'Geronimo'. Must be where the Doctor learnt it from.
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