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Audio Drama Review
YOU are the Doctor, a mysterious traveller in time and space. Will YOU succeed in foiling the ghastly plans of the horrible Porcians, the most inept invaders in all the cosmos? Or will you get yourself killed, over and over again…?
As YOU may already have deduced from the above synopsis, You are the Doctor, which opens an anthology of four single-episode tales, is a pastiche of those Choose Your Own Adventure style stories, a format that has been applied to both classic and new Who several times over the decades, under banners such as Make Your Own Adventure and Decide Your Destiny. John Dorney’s script wittily encapsulates the genre at its laziest and worst. YOU and the Doctor don’t really have any choice in the matter, because all routes except for the one that the authors of the whole debacle (the pig-like Porcians from Dorney’s The Fourth Wall) want you to take lead to an ignominious death. Go back to the start!
Ingeniously, this play can be experienced interactively, by selecting your next audio track from the choices offered within the narrative. However, the story also makes perfect sense if you – sorry, I forgot to capitalise that – if YOU decide to listen to the tracks sequentially. You are the Doctor is exactly the kind of experimental structure that thrives in anthology releases such as this.
A spooky old house. A body in the library. A killer on the loose. The Doctor accepts the challenge laid down by the sinister Mr Norris: to solve a murder mystery that’s defeated 1,868 of the greatest intellects in the universe… and counting...
Not every tale in such a collection can be experimental, though. Come Die With Me is a more conventional murder mystery, but with a twist regarding the unusual nature of the killer. Jamie Newall (who is curiously absent from the cast list) provides the villainous Mr Norris with a deliciously malevolent voice, sounding not unlike Sir Ian McKellen at times.
Unfortunately, Jamie Anderson’s plot is over and done with almost as soon as it’s really got going. Moreover, the title is misleading, for this is not a spoof of the culinary competition Come Dine With Me as one might expect.
The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Ace to the most opulent casino hotel in the cosmos – a haunt of the rich, the famous and the unutterably corrupt. There’s a robbery in progress – but is the Doctor really in on the plan…?
Another story, another spoof title – but a more appropriate one this time. Like the comedy film The Grand Budapest Hotel, Christopher Cooper’s The Grand Betelgeuse Hotel involves hotel staff and a leading character implicated in a serious crime. There’s also a frame narrative – this one featuring Ace (Sophie Aldred) defending herself in court. Whereas You are the Doctor is primarily comedic and Come Die With Me is predominantly dark, the final two episodes in this collection combine those two tones. On the one hand, The Grand Betelgeuse Hotel gives us a simian bellboy (Ruben, played by George Potts) as if in answer to the porcine invaders of You are the Doctor, but on the other there is a lot of anguish and suffering, experienced by both Ruben and Ace. Surprisingly, Jon Culshaw plays against type as an aggressive court prosecutor (he also plays a comical role in You are the Doctor).
Unfortunately, another factor that the final two stories have in common is their rather abrupt deus ex machina endings, in this case involving a miraculous escape from seemingly certain doom.
Tourist spaceship the Daedalus hangs suspended in space, all but three of its passengers having fallen victim to a bizarre and revolting infection. But if the Doctor saves those last survivors, he risks destroying the entire human race…
These stories keep reminding me (and Ace) of Ghost Light. Come Die With Me is set in a creepy old house. The noble simian Ruben in The Grand Betelgeuse Hotel is comparable to the Neanderthal Nimrod. And a particularly nasty disease in Dead to the World reduces its victims to primordial soup. That fate could soon be shared by the whole population of Earth… Balancing that serious threat, writer Matthew Elliott also provides us with more light-hearted moments and characters, such as the tin-headed (and empty-headed) Adriana Beauvais (Juliet Cowan) and a race of evil estate agents – boo, hiss!
At the outset, this anthology appears to depict the Seventh Doctor’s early adventures with Ace – it’s just the two of them in the TARDIS, and he is attempting to educate her. However, a name check in Dead to the World reveals that these tales are actually post-Hex. Also, what initially seems to be a very loose linking theme between the episodes, that of Ace trying to learn how to pilot the TARDIS, proves to be something more – it transpires that the ship has not been going off course as a result of the companion’s poor steering after all. The matter is not resolved in this release, but paves the way for future development…
Truth be told, You are the Doctor is far and away the strongest story in this release. Is it worth forking out for the double CD primarily for that one episode? Only YOU can decide!
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