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4.0 out of 5 stars Tribute for Tom Baker - Celebrating 50 Years of Doctor Who, 19 April 2013
This review is from: Doctor Who: Babblesphere (Destiny of the Doctor 4) (Audio CD)
April 2013. Time to celebrate Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor!

The Tom Baker years for me were 'Genesis of the Daleks'; 'The Robots of Death'; 'The Talons of Weng-Chiang'; 'The Key to Time' series and 'City of Death'.

The Fourth Doctor is a bohemian man with a long scarf who's back to travelling the stars after a long exile on Earth. He witnessed the creation of the Daleks and their creator Davros; battled a giant flesh-eating plant monster and elected himself President of the High Council of Time Lords on Gallifrey. I've personally done my own Tom Baker story.

He's had many travelling companions including lovely Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen); Leela (Louise Jameson (who I've met twice)); loveable K9 (voiced by John Leeson (who I've also met twice) and two Romanas (Mary Tamm and Lalla Ward). Tom Baker is also the Doctor who first met my favourite Doctor Who companion Nyssa of Traken (Sarah Sutton) as well as Tegan Jovanka (Janet Fielding) and Adric (Matthew Waterhouse).

Continuing in the `Destiny of the Doctor' series is Jonathan Morris' story `Babblesphere' produced by Big Finish and AudioGo.

As before like the first three audio releases (the previous one - 'Vengeance of the Stones'), this story is narrated and performed by an actor from the TV series and a guest star. This time, it's Lalla Ward (who played the second Romana opposite Tom Baker) and Roger Parrot as Aurelius.

I've met Jonathan Morris before this CD came out, at a convention in Tunbridge Wells last March. I had a nice chat talking to him about the stories he did, including the Peter Davison ones such as `The Haunting of Thomas Brewster'; `The Eternal Summer' and `Cobwebs'. It was a pleasure to meet him and he seemed a really nice guy.

For `Babblesphere', I got to hear a sound clip from that story at the Tunbridge Wells convention. Jonathan Morris writes this story in the form of the Douglas Adams era and it's pretty clear that there are obvious jokes and scenes filled with Adams-esque humour. Particularly the `mostly harmless' joke and the opening scene with Tiberius 134 (the mumbling little man) who dreamt he was a strange balloon and wondered what he was going to have for breakfast. Even with Lalla Ward reading it, I could help but laugh.

I've always liked the Douglas Adams stories of `Doctor Who'. Some of the science stuff is beyond me, but I've always liked his humour. I really enjoyed `City of Death'; `The Pirate Planet' and the three versions of `Shada' (the book; the audio and the DVD). I've also enjoyed `The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' on radio and the novel 'Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency'. Jonathan Morris manages to capture the feel and essence of Douglas Adams in 'Babblesphere' with complete authencity.

The setting of this story is very intriguing. A hostile volcanic world with the palace of Versailles in the middle of it containing this colony of composers; writers and artists. It certainly had that ridiculous feel of a French Revolutionary setting with men in their powdered wigs and women in their frocks and stylish make-up.

The Babble network is a very inspired idea. The thought of the colonists connected to each other by computer chips in their head, sharing every thought however trivial and sharing their personal lives with everyone is frightening if not disturbing. It puts me very much in mind of the social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Lalla Ward reprises her role as Romana in this story. It's very clear she enjoyed this one, as the Douglas Adams era was her favourite. I don't think she's does a very good impression of Tom Baker or any of the other characters, but she did a good job. I really enjoyed the novel `Shada' by Gareth Roberts and listening to the audiobook with Lalla Ward narrating and John Leeson playing K9, and it felt the same style here in 'Babblesphere' too.

I've recently met Lalla Ward at a convention in Slough in August since writing this review. I had a nice chat with her about this story, Douglas Adams and telling her I was a fan of 'Shada' to which she approved.

Roger Parrott not only plays Aurelius in this story but also the Prolocutor of the Babblesphere. As Aurelius, he's the outsider who doesn't want to get involved in the Babble network and rebels against it by removing his babble implant. He reminds me of the character in 'The Sun Makers' who doesn't want to pay taxes and almost commits suicide. The twist in his performance was unexpected as he gets possessed by the Prolocutor and forces the Doctor and Romana to access the network where they meet a meglomaniac computer like the ones from `The Face of Evil' and `Underworld'.

I would have liked to have seen more of the Doctor in this story since it tends to focus mostly on Romana's point of view with Aurelius and the elderly women rebels. I also would have liked to have heard more of the elderly women rebels like Phyllis and Hortensia and how they got on in the story. And I would have liked to have seen K9 in the story rather than be in the TARDIS for repairs and put on recharge like the sonic screwdriver. But then you can't have it all in such a short space of time as a 70-minute story.

The music and sound design in this story is very good. It put me in mind of the music composed by Dudley Simpson in many Tom Baker stories

The link between these `Destiny of the Doctor' stories is starting to make sense now as the Eleventh Doctor's popping in and out adds to something. Those moments in each of the stories where the future Doctor turns up unexpectedly to relay a message of importance culminates into something that's going to happen in the last of the series. I don't know what that something is yet. I'm looking forward to how it gets resolved in the end.

Next time it's 'Smoke and Mirrors' in the `Destiny of the Doctor' series with the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) and his companions Nyssa, Tegan and Adric.

`Babblesphere' overall is a very enjoyable story with the Fourth Doctor and Romana. It may not be the best of the series so far, but it certainly serves well to celebrate Tom Baker's reign as Doctor. Here's to next time.

The next story with the Doctor and Romana is 'Shada'.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Oct 2013 00:21:27 BDT
Timelord007 says:
I want to be adored, Usual Tom Baker quote, lol
Tim I'm shocked you aint getting more hits as your reviews are exellent & well structured.
I'm voting for you mate.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Nov 2013 12:13:05 GMT
Last edited by the author on 6 Jan 2014 14:03:07 GMT
Glad you think my reviews are excellent and well structured. I do try my best. I don't really mind if I don't get many positive votes on my reviews as I enjoy writing them. Glad you like reading them.

It would have been nice to have had this story focus on the 'Philip Hinchcliffe' era rather than 'Graham Williams'/'Douglas Adams' since I think Tom Baker's first three years as the Doctor were the best and most popular. They could have got Louise Jameson to read this. But I do like the 'Douglas Adams' era as well, so it's right they did a story from that particular era of the show.

Thanks again for your comments. Tim.
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