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Doctor Who: Situation Vacant by Eddie Robson

1/09/2010. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Doctor Who: Situation Vacant in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who: Situation Vacant in the UK

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pub: Big Finish. 1 CD 60 minute story with extras. Price: CD: 10.99 (UK), Download: 8.99 (UK)). ISBN: 978-1-84435-476-4)stars: Paul McGann, James Bachman, Shelley Conn, Joe Thomas, Niky Wardley, Sabina Franklyn, Tony Millan, Joanna Kanska and Barnaby Edwards.

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What's a Doctor to do after he's lost he's lovely assistant? After all, he normally manages to pick up hitchhikers, strays, grandchildren, highlanders and other flotsam and jetsam. A short way of getting a new assistant is to have a beauty parade.

There are four candidates, all eager to please. Each one has their merits and their minuses. Juliet is the hyper business woman. Asha Coreshi is the calm in any crisis one. Bumbling Hugh and geeky Theo each have their moments. But is this really a good idea when it's just so damn dangerous travelling with the Doctor?

With real threats, a hotel receptionist under siege and a mystery to be solved, 'Situation Vacant' is the first episode in a brand new post-Lucie Millar series for the Eighth Doctor. There is a genuine chance of death in service with no pension and no fringe benefits other than extensive travel in time and space. Why would anyone answer the job advert? This is written by Eddie Robson, showing an obsession with the corporate world in keeping with his previous season closer, 'Human Resources'.

Most people are aware of the series 'The Apprentice' even if they don't watch it so we can get the references when the Doctor adopts an acerbic and short-tempered manner of a business man looking to boss around. The team also adopt the attitudes of sulky teenagers so prevalent in the reality show. They bicker, snipe and generally showboat to get the attention of their potential new 'boss' and, of course, it's all very funny. Even as the problems pile up there is time to make an even bigger mess of human relationships.

You'll have to wait till the end to get the big reveal as to the new assistant. However, there's plenty to get your teeth into before it finishes and a little mystery to continue into the next instalment.

Extras are mainly the guest stars and the Doctor talking but don't listen before the audio or it will spoil the story.

Once again, I find it hard to say anything less than praise for the audio. It is funny, intriguing and everybody gives it their all or as they say in The Apprentice, 110%. The plot draws on rampaging SF monsters, attitude to aliens and, of course, our knowledge about reality TV. The Doctor is deliberately withdrawn and challenges everything they do. It is quite a reversal of his previous appearances. If you listen again there is more to hear which may give clues as to what is really going on.

This is a bold move, taking the Doctor away from his compassionate friendship with Lucie Millar and enclosing him in a brittle shell. It will be interesting to see if his new companion is able to break through it. After Charlie and Lucie, the Doctor needs a complete change but he might be too damaged to make any relationship work again. The story is also teasing. It looks like there will be more reveals as the series unfolds.

Sue Davies

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