“The itinerant time and space traveler known as The Doctor, wanted dead or alive. Leela, that’s appalling!”
“Someone wants you captured or killed. I knew it was bad.”
“No, no, it’s the photo they’ve chosen! I look so much better from the left.”
The Doctor and Leela find themselves hunted and captured by a group of rather low and common pirates. But there are many variables that come into play, inclusive of a visit from none other than The Master and a situation involving duelling bounty hunters. And how does K-9 play into all of this?
“I don’t suppose you’ve brought me one of those cakes with a file inside, have you? I’ve always wanted one of those…or maybe just cake, I do like cake. Never trust a man who doesn’t like cake!”
The Doctor leads a slave revolt and outmaneuvers not only his abductors but his most dogged nemesis in a convoluted bit of double agency, while Leela strikes up a friendship (and tutorship!) with a renegade Rocket Man. It’s heavily plot driven, but leaves enough room for some welcome banter…
“That’s the trouble with being a criminal mastermind, interior design is never a priority.”
John Dorney, who similarly delivered the surprisingly witty Dark Eyes 4 entry Master of the Daleks, drops another sophisticated, one liner filled script that plays well with the anarchic absurdism of the Tom Baker Doctor and the wonderfully droll aesthete Master of Geoffrey Beevers.
Even the nominally unsophisticated Leela (Louise Jameson) gets to drop her share of snark, as does the ever-confrontational K-9 (John Leeson), who delivers a bit of “who’s on first” linguistic humor in relation to The Master. With a story this light and (on a certain level) action based, he lends a much needed touch of panache to the proceedings.
“You cretin. Your incompetence beggars belief…your people’s imminent defeat will be a blessing to the universe. Your deaths will raise the population’s collective IQ immeasurably. Good day!”
The only real downside, at the risk of dropping a potential spoiler, is the departure of Leela at the conclusion. But at least the lady’s given a real rationale this time around (remember that ridiculous Invasion of Time sendoff? Oh, I’m sure she fell in love with that guy…), as she intends to tutor renegade Marshall and the surviving Rocket Men into a more worthy destiny.
That said, there is a surprise ending to contend with…
“It is not wise to be complacent. Treat all enemies equally. Otherwise, you risk defeat by an inferior foe.”
It almost goes without saying that Baker, Jameson, Beevers and Leeson are always a pleasure to have on hand for these ongoing audios. If anything, it seems that time (and perhaps, on the whole, more sophisticated scripting) has given their performances an even greater measure of nuance and humanity, eschewing many of the more simplistic elements inherent to the televised medium in favor of a greater space to breathe and freedom to develop their characterizations without the heavy hand of ostensible “children’s programming”-based network oversight.*
* though post-Troughton Who, with all its comparative wit, sophistication and comparative “violent action” can hardly be seen as any sort of a “children’s program” in the modern sense!
While hardly the most atmospheric, gothic or period set of Who stories, Requiem for the Rocket Men succeeds on the basis of its performances and the notable wit peppering much of its script. Those intrigued thereby are encouraged to give it a listen.