Okay, The Nowhere Place has been out about a month now, but since we're just kicking off this whole audio play review thing, I think I'm allowed a little give and take to start with. Besides, there is the outside possibility you haven't bought it yet. Never fear though, tomorrow I'll be reviewing the very latest Big Finish Doctor Who play, the Sylvester McCoy/Bonnie Langford effort Red.
Strangely enough, despite his extreme on-screen kackness, Colin Baker is my favourite of all the Big Finish Doctors (it's a tie between him and Paul McGann really), so I was actually looking forward to this, even though it doesn't feature Peri. Ah, Peri. Sigh...
Written and directed by Nicholas “Voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen. How cool is that?” Briggs, The Nowhere Place is actually a surprisingly creepy little piece, marred by only the occasional piece of silly acting, some odd numbers and the suspicion you've heard it somewhere before (even though you haven't). Otherwise, it's really very good.
The plot (from the Big Finish web site, to save me some time)
2197. The fighter-carrier Valiant has just crossed Pluto's orbital path. Its captain is expecting trouble from alien raiders. She is not expecting the Doctor and Evelyn.
She does not believe members of her crew when they say they can hear an ancient bell ringing. A bell that strikes terror into their hearts.
1952. The Turret Class locomotive Ivy Lee is hurtling through the night. On board, there should only be two passengers: both of them carrying documents from the War Office.
But now, there are also two unexpected visitors on the train. One is the guard with ill-fitting trousers, the other is an excessively dotty old lady.
The Doctor and Evelyn have arrived and 'Time's End' is approaching.
Is it any good?
Yes. It is. It's actually very creepy. The first half of the play is set on the aforementioned Valiant, where a mysterious door to nowhere has appeared in the side of the ship. How it got there, where it leads and why all the ship's crew decide at regular intervals it would be absolutely super to go through it to their probable doom is pretty much the entire story - solving this mystery is what drives the Doctor and it's a distinct race against time (in all senses).
Equally importantly, the door spooks him. It scares him when he's in the TARDIS, particularly since it harks back to an ancient Time Lord legend that he doesn't believe in. Which is nice.
Unfortunately, that takes us to a bad acting area for Colin, since it's more or less an invitation to ham it up like a piece of Danish bacon. Must... strangle... own voice... more. Aghghghghghg! Ooooghgh! Errkkkk! And that's a direct quote, more or less.
Maggie Stables doesn't do much better, since she has to sound lost and anguished most of the time, which inevitably just means her talking very slowly. So combined, we have enough choice moments for an entire bacon sub by the end of the story.
However, the plot itself is enough to keep the tale hanging together and the door to nowhere certainly is disturbing, particularly once it's clear an awful lot of people are going to die and the Doctor hasn't the faintest clue what to do. Its only big flaws are towards the end, where we get things like “the door reads as being 50 billion years old”, which is apparently when the Earth was young: two statements guaranteed to get both cosmologists and geologists very, very annoyed.
And when you hear more of the explanation for the door, the long time Who fan will immediately spot a couple of similar stories by Douglas Adams, put two and two together and make five - since they aren't actually the same, just very similar and not quite mutually contradictory (but awfully close).
The final resolution has a typically C Bakerish ending of moral ambiguity and potential ruthlessness that makes you want to give him a great big hug of joy. You may have had rubbish Who scripts, me old son, but all that time on The Brothers served you well.
So definitely one of the better, potentially even top 10 scripts of the Big Finish Doctor Who series. It's not a big “everything changes from this point on” script, but it's still a pretty good piece of work.
The Doctor (Colin Baker)
Evelyn Smythe (Maggie Stables)
Trevor Ridgely (Nicholas Briggs)
Captain Oswin (Martha Cope)
O'Keefe (Stephen Critchlow)
Master-at-Arms (Andrew Fettes)
Palmer (John Killoran)
Operations (Benjamin Roddy)
EXO Moore (John Schwab)
Armstrong (Andrew Wisher)
Hayman (Philip Wolff)
Writer: Nicholas Briggs
Director: Nicholas Briggs
Release Date: July 2006
RRP: £14.99 (£15.50)
- September 7, 2006: Review: Red
As promised, here's a review of the Big Finish Doctor Who audio play Red, starring Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford.