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Audio Drama Review
The planet Colophos is a dead world. Nothing but dust and rubble... and the ruins of a once-great civilisation. But is it really as dead as it appears? When the Doctor and Leela land, joined by the crew of the Oligarch survey ship, it’s not long before they receive a communication from one of the ruins, a communication from Astaroth Morax, the last of the Colophon. Attended by a sadistic robot nurse, Morax is in a wheelchair and bound in bandages to conceal his terrible injuries. But is he really as powerless as he seems? What became of the rest of his race – and why didn’t he die with them? Entering his lair, the Doctor uncovers a terrifying secret...
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!
It’s been a while since I used one of those warnings, but in this case it would have been tremendously difficult to review Last of the Colophon without directly discussing the story’s central twist – the fact that Astaroth Morax (Gareth Thomas) is invisible. I didn’t see that coming!
Writer Jonathan Morris successfully taps into the television era that he is striving to re-create. As director Nicholas Briggs points out in the interviews at the end of this CD, there’s something of a Hand of Fear vibe to the barren planet and its sole survivor. There’s also a hint of Pyramids of Mars to the traps that defend Morax’s prison – though it reminded me more of the electrified doors of The Tomb of the Cybermen. The writer has also managed to identify and exploit a classic horror movie concept that was never covered during the producership of Philip Hinchcliffe.
It is tempting to speculate as to the reasons why The Invisible Man was never tackled during Hinchcliffe’s time. Perhaps it was because the previous production team had featured invisible beings in Planet of the Daleks, or maybe it had something to do with the fact that Hammer Films had similarly never touched the subject.
Adding to the 1970s flavour is, of course, the casting of Gareth Thomas as Morax – the second Blake’s 7 guest actor in a row in this series of Fourth Doctor adventures. He gives his voice a throatier quality to underscore the character’s menace and to distinguish him from Roj Blake. The actor suggests, in the CD extras, that fans would have loved it if Blake and Tom Baker’s Doctor had briefly crossed paths in one of their two shows... um, no, Gareth, actually I think many fans would have hated it!
The idea of invisibility works surprisingly well on audio, despite the fact that as listeners all the characters and settings are already invisible to us. However, this is a story that might have worked better as a single, continuous play rather than being divided into the usual format of two episodes. False endings such as the one incorporated here only truly work when the audience has lost track of time and thinks that it could really be the end – which isn’t very likely so soon into Part Two. On the other hand, part of the fun lies in the listener guessing certain things before the characters in the story do. Nor did I buy the Doctor’s explanation for why his sonic screwdriver cannot detect the presence of the villain (he’s invisible, not intangible) but at least this means that the sonic is not used as a new series-style magic wand!
Perhaps you too could see your way to sounding out Last of the Colophon.
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