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|The Doctor||Sylvester McCoy|
|Sherilyn Harper||Jacqueline Pearce|
|Stephen Keyser||Mark Wright|
|Walter Jacobs||Mark McDonnell|
|Mick Thompson||Vince Henderson|
|Paul Tanner||Jonathan Clarkson|
|Roderick Allingham||Hugh Walters|
|Alexsandr Karadjic||Jack Gallagher|
|Tannoy Voice||John Aisnworth|
By Jonathan Blum
Dr Who audio play from Big Finish. Two CD set, with four episodes in the traditional tv series story structure of 25 minute episodes with a cliff-hanger ending.
This adventure sees the seventh Doctor and Ace on modern day Earth, specifically in London. A far right anti-immigration party is stirring up fear and hatred in a bid for political power, and has been more successful than it intended. Someone has made an assassination attempt on the party's leader, Sherilyn Harper (played by Jacqueline Pearce). The Doctor and Ace investigate, gaining the trust of a would-be assassin by believing what he says about hearing a monster in Harper's voice. The Doctor identifies the monster as a fearmonger, an artificially created energy creature that once served a useful purpose in the civilisation that created it, but now exists simply to feed on the fear it creates. Identifying it is one thing, dealing with it is another. The fearmonger is manipulating both the New Britannia Party and the United Front, the group formed to oppose it, with terror tactics and riots as the result. It's also quite capable of moving from one human host to another, leading the Doctor and Ace on a merry dance as they try to isolate and destroy it. Matters are complicated by the Doctor's past association with UNIT--Harper's aid, Roderick Allingham, is a former ministry official, and has contacts and access to the Doctor's file. When the UN insists (truthfully) that the Doctor is not currently working for them, Allingham assumes that the Doctor is working on a covert UN op aimed at taking down the New Britannia Party, and takes steps to eliminate the threat. The Doctor has to try to stop the monster itself, stop the United Front's property damage firebombings before they manage to kill someone by accident, and evade the police, who've been told he's working with the terrorists...
Jacqueline Pearce is superb as Harper, a charismatic bigot who genuinely believes that she will be saving the country from a dire future. It's clear from script and performance that she's driven as much by what she sees as her duty as by personal lust for power. The character will probably come over to British listeners as a mix of a racist version of Margaret Thatcher and Pearce's best-known SF role, the military dictator Servalan from Blake's 7, but was apparently based on a real life Australian white supremacist who went into politics because she believed that professional politicians didn't represent the views of the people. Harper is one of several people who find themselves caught up in the mob behaviour they've instigated for their own purposes, and find they like it a good deal less at close quarters.
As with other Big Finish CDs, this is an original script created specifically for performance as an audio play rather than adapted from a tv script or novel, and it's a delight to listen to. The play creates a clear mental picture of what's happening without resorting to blatant info-dumping, and is performed by an excellent cast. Red herrings abound, and the story and characters are complex enough to warrant repeated listening. One thing I specifically noticed on my first listen to this CD is that Sophie Aldred is now a much more accomplished actress than when she first played Ace on tv--I thought then that she had potential but needed experience. It's a specific example of one of the advantages of good audio revivals over tv remakes--you can use the original actors without worrying about their obviously older appearance, and in some cases their performances will have actually improved with the passage of time. Another advantage is that the lower budget requirements make it easier to stay with the original feel of the show, rather than conforming to modern marketing requirements aimed at pushing the buttons of the advertising industry's target demographic. This CD is real Dr Who, merely transferred to a different medium. And transferred very well. I bought this and another Big Finish Dr Who CD (Storm Warning), because they featured Blake's 7 actors, but based on these two I'm very happy to keep buying the Big Finish CDs.
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© Copyright 2004 Jules Jones