“The infection only appears to have become fatal after genetic tampering.
(sigh) Why do people always have to meddle with the natural order of things?”
The Sylvester McCoy Doctor and Mel (Bonnie Langford) land in a dark and musty enclosure filled with razor sharp traps, sentient phosphorescent mold and giant rats. Making their escape, The Doctor and Mel wind up…packaged for shipment?
In short order, they discover that an entire society of clones has built itself
around management of an aging space stationed warehouse, where nothing ever actually ships out…
Why has the Bay F family shuttered themselves away from the rest? Why is the planet this facility services an overgrown wasteland? And most importantly…what is the true relationship between the rats, mold, clones and planetside residents?
“That’s why you’re all clones, isn’t it? So that you all work in exactly the same
way, all do the same routine.”
“What do you do when you’re not doing the stock take…I mean when you’re not working…in your spare time?”
While a wholly subjective measure, it feels like there’s a whole lot more of Mel this time around, and better yet, much of it occurring in partnership and
conjunction with Sylvester McCoy, rather than the expected separate
Doctor/companion story tracks (though this more typical stylistic approach does certainly rear its head sometime around the halfway mark). As a longtime fan of Bonnie Langford’s Who work (particularly with regard to the more evolved Big Finish iteration thereof), you can mark this as a decided plus.
Far from the garishly dressed “screaming Mimi” role she was oft presented with in the Nathan Turner era, listeners to the audios are treated to a sardonically affectionate relationship between the two, more comfortable and equal in nature than the apprenticeship dynamic he shares with Sophie Aldred’s Ace (or for that matter, between her other Doctor Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant’s Peri).
They’re almost like an old married couple, or at the very least some sort of close family relations – the sense of one knowing exactly what the other one will come out with next is both palpable and amusingly familiar, and offers a warmth not present in more unequal Doctor/companion relationships. It’s fun and as comfortable as a warm cuppa on a brisk Autumn eve.
McCoy further gets to leave behind much of the “Dark Doctor” persona he’d developed into something of a standard since Season 25 and return to his more familiar comic leanings, acting as something of a doddering uncle figure not unlike the Pat Troughton iteration. That noted, elements of the later orientation do shine through at key moments…
“This barbarism stops right now. No more talk of blasphemy, no more sacrifices. Or for once, I might just decide that this civilization isn’t worth saving.”
There’s a strong sense of mystery and menace pervading throughout the scenes onboard the orbital warehouse, and something of a Logan’s Run aesthetic to the initial business planetside, leaving The Warehouse as a winning, textbook sci-fi dystopia peopled by unusual alien species and filled with intrigue, scheming and a nigh-archaeological uncovering of the truth behind longstanding myths, legends and lies.
There’s even a timely injunction against taking propaganda…or even first impressions…at face value, and of the need for all of us to set aside our differences to band together against the true enemies of society…
“Don’t you see? We were wrong about the vermin. They’re not our enemy…it’s the Supervisor!”
Former Colin Baker/McCoy era visual effects assistant Mike Tucker returns to Big Finish some years after his similarly excellent Dust Breeding (a good fifteen years, in fact!) to deliver an equally well considered, fully developed worldbuilding milieu filled with unexpected twists and turns and gradual revelations and a more than usually humanist approach to characterization.
It’s nice stuff, and good to see an old and sure hand back at the metaphorical helm…particularly with the Langford/McCoy team navigating the waters.
Two markedly excellent, quality main line Who tales in a row with this current
trilogy…can Big Finish deliver another home run in the final stretch?