Top positive review
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on 14 August 2015
This is the 70th release in the Main Range by Big Finish, and was released in June 2005.
The story is set not long after Time and the Rani, so the relationship between Mel and the Seventh Doctor is still quite a new one. We first hear a ‘soundscape’ which allows us to place the time and context as somewhere on Earth, probably Germany, in post-WWII. A man called Johannes Rausch is approached by a man with an offer that seems too good to be true; and there is no collection on the debt until the day before Johannes dies.
Meanwhile, some fifty years later Mel is at home waiting for the Doctor to pick her up, but when the Tardis arrives, he is nowhere to be seen. Instead, he has left her a holographic message, asking her to follow a man called Louis, but not to let Louis see her tailing him. Luckily she finds herself a friendly cabbie, who seems only too happy to lend her his brawn and know-how to break into a run-down asylum.
I thought this story started very strongly. In the first episode we are given much with very little narration. There are scenes, sounds, contexts and motivations are laid down very cleverly. The impetus built in the first episode carries through to the second episode, where a little more is now available to the listener so as to understand what might be happening, but there is still so much more that we don’t know, and nor does Mel. Mel is very much acting as an independent character in this story, as the Doctor is absent from much of the first and second episodes, and when he is there, he really isn’t himself.
I did think the third and fourth episodes were not so strong as the first two. The third episode has a lot of running up and down corridoors and similar dashing about to seemingly little avail. While the fourth episode resolves the story neatly, it was, I thought, a little too easily and readily tidied away.
I enjoyed reading the writer, David A McIntee’s notes in this story. He says there that he and his wife love the cliffhangers of classic Doctor Who stories (which his wife calls ‘diddly-dums’, and that he had always wanted to write a story with ‘diddly-dums’. He has certainly done that here, as the first, second and third episodes had wonderful ‘diddly-dums’.
The cast in the story is strong; with Bonnie Langford really presenting well as Mel, and Sylvester McCoy hamming it up all over the place as the Doctor (sometimes a little too much). Jennie Linden (who played Barbara in the 1965 Dr Who and the Daleks movie) was really impressive as Klyst. Toby Longworth plays a really pivotal and very incisive role as the cabbie, and Hugh Hemmings is really good as Johannes Rausch. The other parts, not so integral to the story, were also very well cast and played.
There is a lot to like in this story, but a few quibbles which I felt left the overall impression not as strong in my enjoyment as it perhaps could have been. The original storyline involved Daleks, and I suspect it may have been better if they had been retained somewhere in there. The story didn’t quite hold together as well as it could have, and so I thought it deserved 3.5 stars, rounded to 4.