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Doctor Who Lost Stories: Animal by Andrew Cartmel

01/11/2011. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy Doctor Who Lost Stories: Animal in the USA - or Buy Doctor Who Lost Stories: Animal in the UK

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pub: Big Finish. 2 CDs 120 minute story. Price: CD: GBP 14.99 (UK), Download: GBP 12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-492-4) cast: Sylvester McCoy, Beth Chalmers, Angela Bruce, John Banks, Anthony Lewis, Dannielle Brent, Alex Mallinson and Amy Pemberton.

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Its time to get an education, so the Seventh Doctor takes his bickering companions, Raine (Beth Chalmers) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) to university. In ‘Animal’, the third of the Seventh Doctor Lost Stories, the scene moves to Margrave University on Earth in 2001 where there is something dodgy going on in the Student Union and it’s not just the food.

This audio sees the return of the Brigadier, sadly not our beloved Brig but it is Brigadier Bambera who took on the UNIT mantle in the ‘Battlefield’, Angela Bruce takes back the role with some gusto and explains to the Doctor about UNIT’s presence on the peaceful plains of the Middle England University.

Rayne and Ace go under cover, joining a dissident group who are against animal testing. The leader of the group is, delightfully played by Anthony Lewis (‘Torchwood’) as a nerdy, unwashed, student with an over-developed ego. He is joined by his ‘girl-friend’, Willa, (Danielle Brent) who is also undercover and their loved-up scenes are very funny.

It is not going to be a straightforward assignment as UNIT are in charge of the labs that Scobie’s gang are so interested in and that’s not a cactus that’s chasing you. Being UNIT, there is plenty of extra-terrestrial material and some of the plants are more than happy to up roots and run after anyone who breaks in.

As Raine and Ace get sucked into the plotting of Scobie and Willa, the Doctor attempts to find out what is really going on and, of course, there being four episodes, in the classic style, the plot does thicken. Just what is that dish on the side of Scobie’s university flat? He says its blocking transmission but it’s not just that and not a pirate mast to pick up Sky football. As ever, the story is inventive, amusing and a little bit scary and that’s before the best aliens ever arrive.

In fact, there is a bit of a battle for the best alien here as the first ones in this are the most creepily voiced which will leave you with a very distinct impression but then there are the Metatraxi, as heard in ‘Crime Of The Century’, and thanks to the Doctor their dodgy, translator still makes them sound just like Bill and Ted on one of their adventures.

Don’t be fooled by the comic moments as some fairly dark events take place with some pretty unsavoury outcomes. Sometimes it seems as if the Doctor carries on regardless and it is up to us to take a moment to feel for the human cost. We take the presence and the assistance of the Doctor for granted and in these stories we expect that all will be made right but there is always a body count in a war and this is no exception.

This is quality indeed and, as with every Big Finish audio, it is an essay in how to use sound as skilfully as cinematographers use light. Once again this is one you will enjoy going back to. The addition of Brigadier Bambera adds a good, grown-up foil for the Doctor and I hope she returns.

Sue Davies

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