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Third Time Lucky for the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller
on 22 December 2009
'Orbis' kicks off the third season of New Eighth Doctor Adventures starring Paul McGann as the Doctor and Sheridan Smith as Lucie Miller, and does it in style. Alan Barnes and Nicholas Briggs' story is a great example of exploiting the audio medium to the full, and telling the kind of story that would be difficult, maybe impossible, to tell effectively in a visual medium. The Doctor has settled on the watery planet of Orbis, having apparently forgotten much of his past - it's been a long time since he last saw his companion Lucie, who, having been deposited back home at the end of the last season by the Time Lords, is now seized and dragged across time and space by recurring nemesis the Headhunter. Meanwhile, the Keltans, friendly jellyfish-like natives of Orbis whom the Doctor lives among, are being threatened by the aggressive Molluscari, led by the hermaphrodite Crassostrea. But how do all these strands weave together...?
On paper, none of this sounds especially promising, and I almost skipped 'Orbis' - I'm glad I didn't. It's a gem - funny and dramatic in equal measure, and bolstered by some terrific performances, both from the regulars and guest stars. Andrew Sachs goes completely over the top as the villainous Crassostrea, and strikes the perfect balance between menace and comedy as the script demands, and it's nice to hear Katarina Olsson reprise her role from previous episodes as the Headhunter. But it's Laura Solon (Perrier Award winner and star of Radio 4's 'Talking And Not Talking') playing the Doctor's faithful friend Selta who really impressed - a very funny, and at times touching, performance.
Although it would certainly help if the listener was familiar with previous events in the Doctor and Lucie's travels, and in particular those of the Season Two finale 'The Vengeance of Morbius', there's nothing here that should be a problem for anyone wanting to use 'Orbis' as a jumping-on point for this series with little or no prior knowledge of what went before. At roughly an hour long (split into two half-hour episodes), this doesn't outstay its welcome, and really whets the appetite for a new series of adventures for Paul McGann's Doctor. In fact, it's unquestionably one of the highlights of his tenure so far.