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The Doctor, Leela and K9 arrive on the imaginatively monikered Planet E9874, where alien Overseers and Architects are enlisting the native primitive culture of the Tarl to construct great beacons to deep space in exchange for introducing them to culture and knowledge. 

But what is the purpose?  Who are the “Locoyuns” really?  And why are Tarl workers dying horribly in their wake?

“A city that had destroyed its own civilization by controlling the minds of its inhabitants.  And it gained its power from a gigantic beacon.”

While there is an obvious if somewhat banal connection to be found relating to cellular phone companies scamming residential buildings into low paying, irrevocable lifetime contracts in exchange for cancer-causing EM field generating towers on their rooves, what author Nick Briggs actually appears to be taking aim at here is related, but far larger in scope. 

Because with entire nations, even the global socioeconomic framework being governed, directed and manipulated by a literal handful of rich corporate magnates with ties (if not outright ownership) to overseas (and occasionally hostile) governments and parties, it’s clear that the game has changed dramatically. 

No longer a mere game of nation vs. nation, the ties have become far more complex, a seemingly inextricable web of high finance that leaves everyone vulnerable politically, economically, and socially, since not all nations are so enlightened as to respect the rights of the individual, for a healthy living wage, security for illness and old age, or even freedom of speech and thought…

“In her heart, I know she has questions…questions that you or I would never ask.
…a mind that dares to fight the benificence of our great city.  It cannot be permitted.”

It’s a pleasant surprise to see the generally action and bombast oriented Briggs (who also directs) drawing a line in the sand to make something of a larger statement here.  While necessarily subsumed with the trappings of grandiose machination and tribal conflict (or conflict management, as appears to be the case earlier on), there’s enough sci-fi to keep those who prefer more straightforward readings of the material content, while simultaneously open enough, if not begging vociferously for, a more meaningful reading.

As appears to be the case with several Who audios of late, the Doctor and companions seem a bit sidelined in favor of the often involved if not convoluted mechanics of the story and fleshing out, if not in terms of characterization, then certainly the mise en scene of the guest cast and situation at hand. 

Nonetheless, it’s always a pleasure to hear Tom Baker and Louise Jameson’s Leela doing their Graham Williams era thing, with John Leeson offering an unexpected if welcome bonus as K9 (much as he’d done in this month’s previously reviewed Baker/Lalla Ward Gareth Roberts set), and if you don’t mind something of a reprise of the setup from Face of Evil (substituting the ‘advanced’ “Locoyuns” for the Tesh and the more neanderthalic Tarl for the Sevateem), this one may well be your comfortably steaming cuppa to settle in with for the night.