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The Wrong Doctors
on 5 July 2015
This is the 169th story in the Big Finish Main Range, and is the first in a series of three stories which re-introduces the character of Melanie Bush, the companion first seen with the Sixth Doctor in the tv series when she appears in a story (Terror of the Vervoids) brought by the Valeyard in evidence against the Doctor at the Doctor’s Trial (Trial of a Time Lord).
Mel has appeared in other BF stories, but the story of how she came to first travel with the Doctor has never been addressed in a specific story, and this story puts this to rights. The Doctor has farewelled his companion Evelyn Smythe, and decides that this is the time in his timeline when he should sort out the meeting of himself with Mel, so sets off to the village of Pease Pottage, where Mel lives on Earth in 1987. But something seems to have gone terribly wrong, because there are two Tardises, two Doctors, and two Mels in Pease Pottage; and there are aspects of Pease Pottage that just don’t seem quite right. What is an iguanadon doing in the garden? And what exactly is going on in Pease Pottage?
This is a really valiant attempt to put right the introduction of Mel into the life of the Doctor. The two lead parts, played by Bonnie Langford and Colin Baker are tremendously well played by the actors. Listening to the extras on the cd, it is interesting to hear Colin Baker talk about the challenges of playing himself at two different points in his own timelined. Visually, it would be relatively easy to do a story like that on tv, where the Doctor is wearing a different coat, and subtle changes could be made to ‘show’ the differences. In an audio story, the Doctor’s mannerisms and character must be shown only through the medium of voice. This is done very well with the script, but remarkably well by Colin in his manner and tone, and in the delivery of his voice. There’s never any doubt in the story which Doctor is speaking. Similarly, the two Mels, one younger and one slightly older and worldly-wise after her travels with the Doctor, are played with subtle differences and nuances by Bonnie Langford very well.
The story itself I thought got a bit over-clever in its attempt to shove so much action into the narrative. The ‘aliens’ that appear part way through the story really didn’t seem to be needed to add to the storyline at all. They seemed a distraction, and their over-the-top management speak in cheesy American accents just seemed a bit silly, and diluted the rest of the story. The motivation and the reality of Stapleton Petherbridge, and the others of the Pease Pottage village where the Doctors and Mels find themselves was quite enough of a story in itself without the clutter added in. As a result, I think the real story got rather overshadowed and there were some points where both the Doctor and Mel made great leaps in logic to work out what was going on without showing their reasoning to us at all; as a result, the tension was not resolved satisfactorily for the listener, as the storyline had become too busy, and the resolution too rushed. A pity, as there were some really great elements in the story, but overall I felt a bit disappointed with the end result.