Another Doctor who lost story audio. These take stories that were written for the tv show but never got made, and turn them into audio plays. This one features Colin Baker as the Doctor and Nicola Bryant as his companion Peri.
It runs for four episodes, spread over two discs. Episode length is twenty five to thirty minutes approx. Which is a nice change from some of the long two part stories earlier in this series.
The story sees the TARDIS crew caught up in an interstellar whale hunt, as a whaling spaceship tracks down a space whale [It can be said without any spoilers that there is no tie in between this and a recent episode of the tv show]. With an embittered captain on the whaler and something lurking in the bottom of the ship, the Doctor and Peri have a fight on their hands to save the space whale.
And that's before they get closer to the creature itself, and into some strange territory....
This doesn't feel like it's been written for audio or adapted to make it work for the medium. It feels like a pretty straight translation of a tv script. And that's what makes it work quite well. Because by being a standard story for the tv show you know what you're going to get, and thus it zips along quite nicely and pushes all the right buttons. It considers the issues of whaling and makes other points about the economic situation and the like without ever hammering them home. There are several characters who are potential comedy relief and they are genuinely entertaining without ever going over the top.
It does get into some strange territory in the third episode and that plus some shenanigans with time mean you have to pay close attention at points, but audio can create the visuals of these moments in your mind far better than tv ever could, so this comes off okay. Also all the supporting characters do have believable motivations, and the story does move along as a result of those.
Not an outstanding release, but a well paced and rather entertaining one.
There are roughly eighteen minutes of interviews with cast and crew at the end of each disc. This may sound long but the details of the writing process and why this never got to tv are absorbing listening and that makes them zip along. And there's a trailer for the next release in the series at the start of disc one.
Of all of the Lost Stories for Colin Baker this one has the longest history, having been proposed as far back as Douglas Adam's script editorship. For some reason, Adams didn't like it but both Bidmead and Saward did and it kept being updated for each era. To be honest I don't know why this was never made: Not only is it an excellent script but with it dark, dank corridors it seems it would have been a reasonably cheap production.
Plot: A little heavy-handed anti-whaling message perhaps more appropriate for its time than now, it nevertheless still has an interesting plot that keeps changing the nature of the story as it goes along. There is a definite under-current of anti-whaling sentiment, but it does not come out in favour of primitive whaling either. On top of that there is a Jonah and the Whale style extra story which takes the second part in a different direction. While there is no failing here, some of the other versions were for a larger TARDIS crew (including an introduction for Turlough) and I don't think that would have worked quite as well.
Script: Pat Mills has already shown his script-writing ability on a couple of Eighth Doctor stories and here he goes back to an old script that shows the same level of insight into the characters. At least one role has been recast from the intended male to a female character, but not to the detriment of the script (and this sort of thing did occasionally happen on TV)
Other: The only scene that might have been difficult to show on television would have been when the Doctor, Peri and the Travellers are shot at while standing on top of a giant Space Whale. But in fact I think CSO was sufficiently far forward at that point that it could have been done by using an establishing shot and then close-ups for the detail, along with echoing voices.
A brilliant piece of Who that might could easily have been the Kinda of its day (i.e. brilliant story with dodgy effects).