Firstly, can I just ask, “What the Hell happened to the Big Finish web site?” Have a look at it: it's horrible!
Putting that to one side for a moment, though, does anyone actually look forward to the Sylvester McCoy releases? Just before I'm about to listen to one, I always feel like I'm in that Revels ad - you know, the spoof of Deer Hunter - and someone's pre-loaded the bag with toffees.
For one gleaming moment, though, it looked like I was going to get a coffee-flavoured audio play with Valhalla. No Sophie Aldred. Good. Sylvester McCoy playing the Doctor all quiet and melancholic, with scarcely a word beginning with 'r' in sight. Excellent. Hints that we're going for season 25 or 26, rather than 24, with the Doctor having a cunning plan up his sleeve from the beginning. Excellente.
Then, oh dear. Mango-flavoured.
Plot (found in a book shop 200 years in the future)
Welcome to Valhalla, Capital of Callisto, Jupiter's premier moon, where anything and everything is up for sale. But Valhalla isn't quite what it says in the brochures – not since Earth granted independence and cut off the supplies.
The former Doctor (FOR SALE. EXCELLENT CONDITION) visits the Job Centre and finds power cuts, barcoded citizens and monthly riots (ALL BOOKABLE.)
And then there's the problem with the termites…
Is it any good?
For rather a long time, it seemed like it was going to be good. I was enjoying Sylvester McCoy's performance. It all seemed quite grown up and clever, although there were touches of silliness at times. The rest of the cast's acting wasn't that heinous.
I was writing a positive review in my head.
Then it all started to fall apart when the termite enemy revealed itself. God, that was daft.
There's a marked tendency for Doctor Who to make any enemy, whether it's a Dalek, a piece of gloop, a virus, or - in this case - a super-evolved termite, able to communicate with the Doctor. This can work out quite well, but when you're talking about an implacable army of giant termites, you really want them to be scary, not like something out of Dad's Army.
So, unfortunately, I have to say give this one a miss, unless you thought The Happiness Patrol was a classic of modern television (new Whoers: think Aliens of London instead).
This review, incidentally, marks the inauguration of my new, practical ratings systems for audio plays: “How much should you have to pay for it?” It's very simple really. Out of the asking price (£14.99 in this case), I simply tell you how much, in retrospect, I think the play is actually worth, either in real money or via a barter system. Let me know what you think.
How much should you have to pay for it?
Asking price: £14.99
Actual worth: £3.99 or you could barter a small, porcelain owl
Listen to a trailer (Windows Media Player)
Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor)
Michelle Gomez (Jevvan)
Phillip Jackson (Laxton)
Susannah York (Our Mother / Registry / Tannoy)
Fraser James (Gerium)
Donna Berlin (Tin-Marie)
Duncan Wisbey (Clerk / Sergeant / Pilot / New Tannoy)
Dominic Frisby (Groom / Drome Guard / Resolute Pilot / Worker 1 / Marketeer)
Jack Galagher (Worker 2)