01/03/2011. Contributed by Sue Davies
pub: Big Finish. 4 CDs 240 minutes 3 stories with extras. Price: CD: GBP 25.00 (UK), Download: GBP 20.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84435-453-5) cast: Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Susan Brown, Jean Marsh, Alan Cox, Chris Porter, Alex Mallinson and Nicholas Briggs.
check out web site www.BigFinish.com
‘The Second Doctor Box Set’ is produced by Big Finish as they rampage through the history of the Doctor finding scripts along the way
It is the turn of the Second Doctor and here Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Zoë (Wendy Padbury) are the companions who present the dramatised version of ‘Prison In Space’ by Dick Sharples (adapted by Simon Guerrier).
Landing in an unexpected place yet again, the two companions and the Doctor are bemused to find they are in a prison for men. This is a world that is turned on its head. Women have eliminated the need for men and keep them segregated and subdued by feeding them on pills.
What follows is reminiscent of the fearful comedies written as the Women’s Movement pressed for equal pay and rights in a male-dominated world. Post-war in the UK and US women saw their role enhanced outside the home. Those of you old enough to remember ‘The Two Ronnies' story ‘The Worm That Turned’ will realise that this idea was later re-used to make a comedy insert into their show. It’s pretty ghastly now and unfunny if, like me, you grew up with those attitudes. It all looks and sounds a bit 'Carry On' and at first glance this is a dinosaur of a script.
At least there is an element of tongue in cheek here. It references how the characters were in the 1960s and how much we have moved on. The interviews and discussions on the extras go into how this was addressed with the re-writes including putting all the attitudes originally attributed to the Doctor into the character of Jamie who, after all, came from a fairly uncivilised part of British history.
I’m glad it wasn’t made into a series in the 1960s as it would have proved demeaning to both the men and women in the show. I prefer to think of ‘Doctor Who’ expanding the role of women beyond the carefully constructed domestic roles previously available. Adapting it with hindsight and wit, here proves its saving grace.
You may care to guess the eventual outcome of this show but if you’ve seen ‘The Worm That Turned’ you won’t need to. There is an interesting sub-plot about Chairman Babs, the aging dictator, which lurches more to the comedic than the dramatic.
Good points are hearing the ‘real’ Jamie and Zoë together again and the support from the other actors including Susan Brown (‘Torchwood: Children Of Earth’). Another highlight is the uncanny ability of Fraser Hines to channel the late, great Patrick Troughton. The low points are the plot which feels rather drawn out and the ending which strangely isn’t the destruction of all male DNA.
There are some interesting points raised by this plot such as women cancelling all nuclear bombs and therefore never starting the arms race and also stopping all wars. Asexual reproduction also eliminates the need for males, something the guys have been worrying about for a while now. There are certain ‘Star Trek’ qualities to this with its lofty visions of a peaceful future.
Bundled with this is the pilot for a US version of a drama about the Daleks called ‘The Destroyers’. This thirty minute pilot was written as a vehicle for these little pepper-pots who were going to go solo without the Doctor and intended for consumption in America. In this we have the Daleks attacking an outpost Explorer Base 1 with the lead characters of Sara Kingdom, space police and her brother, David.
This is quite an atmospheric opener and it’s strange to hear Jean Marsh again voicing the young Sara Kingdom (Jean Marsh). There is no word how she got resurrected but Marsh has her own theories as discussed in the extras. The episode also features an android called Mark Seven and another human called Jason Corey. They would be part of a team who would resist the invasion of the Daleks.
‘Prison In Space’ is presented as essentially a two-hander dramatically retelling the story with some other acted inserts and it works very well as an effectively enhanced ‘Companion Chronicle’. With no Second Doctor to use, this is the best option and it’s more than nostalgia that makes the partnership of Fraser Hines and Wendy Padbury so effective.
‘The Destroyers’ is done as a full production with considerable narration by Jean Marsh. Inevitably, it ends with you hoping for more probably because the magic of Big Finish can make everything sound worthwhile. It was adapted for audio by Nick Briggs and John Dorney which, of course, means the Briggsy is the Daleks.
Jean Marsh and her co-stars imbue life into this plot which would probably not have been as obvious in the 1960s with its fairly tacky special effects and thank goodness as the Doctor without the Daleks would have been poorer indeed.
Overall, this is a piece of completism that I hope will satisfy those that are eager for more stories featuring the Second Doctor. It can never be the same as the original but it offers a little glimpse back through the years and makes us all feel young again.
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