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Big Finish Sadly Buckles
on 19 May 2015
Returning to scribe duties after 'Medicinal Purposes', comedy historian Robert Ross sends angry old Six on another historic escapade, this time to Brighton, 1936. There's something foul over at the pier, with strange lights and vanishing people, and with the aid of comedy legend Max Miller and an eager young movie fan, the Doctor sets out to unravel an enigma with potentially devastating consequences...
As you'd expect from Big Finish, one of the story's strengths is its cast: the lively Colin Baker as the fiery Sixth and the late Maggie Stables as Professor Evelyn Smythe have not lost a jot of their chemistry that made them a favourite among fans. However, the main draw here is Roy Hudd as Miller, one of England's most beloved comedians, and he manages the role well, helped by experience of doing impersonations of Miller, and makes him a consistently lively and energetic presence in the story as befitting a comic maverick. Also as expected is the prowess of the technical crew, creating the appropriate seaside sounds of waves crashing, seagulls and the drunken chatter of pubs while underscoring with a very atmospheric soundtrack that definitely feels classic horror movie-esque and adds a lot more than the script would have conjured on its own.
Yes sadly, Ross' script is the lame duck here: the pseudo historical is very familiar ground for Who, and despite a strong start that creates a sense of foreboding, the audioplay sags and slogs after the half way mark. It's very much a routine secret aliens as gods wanting to dominate the earth in a period setting tale with plenty of the requisite running around and near death escapes, and despite some chucklesome lines, the script just doesn't balance the chills and laughs all that well and it starts to become very exposition heavy in the second half with just a lot of sitting around and talking. This is not helped by possibly some of the lamest and least intimidating villains Who has ever had: despite the possession gimmick, the threat lacks any real personality and has practically no threat level. Remember how great Azal or Sutekh were? Well, this false god is just another conquest happy nut without any spark or flair of his own.
In closing, 'Pier Pressure' starts strong and looks set to be a nice little Hinchcliffian tale, but then the dialogue starts to fatten, the villain appears, and a lot of it just feels like the characters going in circles. A real shame as there are positives here and Pier Pressure is certainly no 'Warriors of The Deep' but it's so familiar and tepid that it lacks any identity of its own to leave a lasting impact.