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Review: Doctor Who - The Year of the Pig

Posted on January 10, 2007 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Year of the Pig Ah, truffles. Rich, indulgent, expensive, an acquired taste and ultimately not very satisfying.

Why do I mention truffles?

  1. I've never started a review with a discussion about truffles and I like a bit of variety.
  2. Big Finish's The Year of the Pig is in many ways like a truffle
  3. It's a lazy metaphor and I'm also quite lazy
  4. You need pigs to find truffles.

All good reasons, I'm sure you agree.

Anyway. Truffles. Much like the truffle, The Year of the Pig sounds good on paper, but isn't so good in practice. It's also found buried in forests. Hang on. Metaphor stretched too far.

Plot (invented by the pigs behind Big Finish)
Ostend, 1913. War is coming. A war in which millions will die. And the guest in suite 139 of the Hotel Palace Thermae knows it. Which is odd, considering he has trotters, a snout and a lovely curly tail.

Toby the Sapient Pig is a swine on the run. Two peculiar strangers have been hunting him across Europe. The first, Miss Alice Bultitude, is an Englishwoman and collector of obscure theatrical ephemera. The second, Inspector Alphonse Chardalot, is a celebrated member of the detective police - the man who brought the trunk murderess of St Germain to justice.

This was supposed to be a reading week for the Doctor and Peri. Now they must do battle with a villain who wants to wipe every last human from the face of the earth - once he's had just another dish of truffles. And maybe a valedictory glass of fizzy lemonade.

Is it any good?
No. It really isn't. You know when you're writing fiction (maybe you don't, but bear with me), there's always a part of you that has a silly idea that you'd like to let loose. Something your imagination has conjured up that doesn't make sense, that is designed purely to show off how clever you are and that will ultimately lead to nothing except your own self-satisfaction? Something your better judgement eventually throws to one side as a Bad Idea.

No? Maybe it's just me then. How else do you explain my seminal Doctor Who script, Gratuitous Violence of The Chameleons? (No, that wasn't a working title.)

Anyway, I get the sensation that in this case, the brain-paper interface has been penetrated and something that should have stayed firmly in the mental wastebin managed to escape and get made into a play.

As you can probably tell from the plot synopsis, the set-up for the play is silly to start with, what with sapient pigs running around all over the place and nobody really paying much attention. It soon starts to get even sillier. Maybe that old maxim of late 70s Who casting has come into effect: if the script is silly enough, big names will come so they can have a laugh and ham it up. Ho, ho. What a punster I am. So we have Michael Keating and Paul Brooke given a luxurious two CDs to show off their best pastiches. That's probably a little unfair since both do a good job with their respective parts.

Aside from the silly plot, we also have poor dialogue. Peri is ridiculously un-Peri like, sounding more like a 40-year-old school teacher than a sparky teenage American gap year student. The Doctor seems more like William Hartnell at times than Colin Baker. And let's not get started on the supporting cast's fountain of purple prose.

Will all the references to Proust crammed into the play, I'm sure there's an entire genre of early 20th century literature being parodied here. I'm haven't a clue what it might be though. As a self-contained work, it certainly leaves a lot to be desired and even on its own terms, signifies nothing. Absolutely to be avoided.

At least it would be if it weren't double-headered with Return of the Daleks, a bonus play for anyone who subscribes to Big Finish's Doctor Who range from The Year of the Pig onwards. It's a companion-less McCoy crossover with Big Finish's Dalek Wars range, co-starring Gareth Thomas, and I'm sure it'll make even more sense if you've listened to those plays. It's also a sequel of sorts to one of Pertwee's better Dalek stories. It's bleak and nasty and is well worth listening to, even if the ending's weak. So buy one, get the free one, then throw away the one you've bought.

Cast
The Doctor (Colin Baker)
Peri (Nicola Bryant)
Nurse Albertine (Adjoa Andoh)
Toby the Sapient Pig (Paul Brooke)
Inspector Chardalot (Michael Keating)
Miss Alice Bultitude (Maureen O'Brien)

Writer: Matthew Sweet
Director: Gary Russell

Price: ?Ǭ�14.99 (?Ǭ�15.99 international)

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  • April 19, 2007: Review: Renaissance of the Daleks
    My review of Renaissance of the Daleks

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