Review: Doctor Who – Brave New Town

Brave New Town Thank Christ for that.

For quite some time, I’ve been wondering if there was ever going to be another, truly decent Eighth Doctor and Lucie story. Certainly, this season’s have all been a bit on the wrong side of completely terrible.

But finally, we have a good ‘un. Yey.

Might I, at this point, just say: “Heads and tails, heads and tails, heads and tails. Heads and tails, heads and tails, heads and tails?”

Yes, the rumours are true. The living legend Derek Griffiths is in this one. All hail Derek Griffiths.

Plot

It’s like The Village That Time Forgot!

The inhabitants of the quiet seaside town of Thorington in Suffolk are living the same day over and over again.

What’s so special about the 1st of September 1991? Why haven’t the villagers noticed that the same song has been number one for years? And just where on Earth has the sea disappeared to?

The Doctor and Lucie must solve the mystery before the ‘visitors’ return…

Is it any good?

I did quite enjoy this. Not the best play there’s ever been, but it’s pretty good and quite traditional: Doctor and companion land in a village. All is not quite right. Some pesky East European types are involved. Turns out an old enemy of the Doctor is involved, although not using their standard MO. I’ll give you a clue: it’s an old favourite and despite the premise, it’s not the Kraals, who have pretty much been there and done that already.

Normally, in these plots, you can spot what’s going on instantly. Or at least before the Doctor, who normally says “I have my suspicions, but I just need to check something” just as you’ve gone “Oh, I know what’s happening”. Here, the Doctor is ridiculously ahead of everything, coming up with the right answers before even a shred of evidence arrives, although, of course, he can see things and we can’t. When you’ll guess the monster, I don’t know, but I feel ashamed to say I identified it from the gun noise. There’s another clue for you.

Lucie. What to say about Lucie? She’s actually relatively tolerable here, but typically whingey. I don’t know what’s wrong. Sheridan Smith is a great comedy actress: she’s great in Two Pints, fantastic in Gavin and Stacey. So why Lucie comes across as such a tedious waste of time, I don’t know. I suspect the scripts, since here, all she does is get captured and make sarcastic remarks, leaving Paul McGann to chat to Derek Griffiths for most of the play.

While McGann pretty much phones in his performance this time, the guest cast is interesting: Griffiths, I’ve already mentioned, and he’s not bad at all; Nick Wilton should also be familiar to anyone who watched kids TV during the 80s, but is less acceptable, although he doesn’t ruin it for anyone and is reasonably fun.

Adrian Dunbar is obviously the big name actor in the cast list, and he does the big name actor thing of refusing to do any accent but his own, even though all the other cast members are doing their very best “I’m a Ruskie. From Ruskieland” accents. In fact, for the longest time, I thought it was David Tennant being full on Scottish, they sound so similar – until I checked the cast list again.

And then there’s Katarina Olsson, who does a very bad Ruskieland accent, but who’s now been in all this season’s Eighth Doctor stories and was in all of last season’s as the Headhunter – something going on here, maybe, or just regular old Big Finish casting policy in action?

There’s a nice twist towards the end, incidentally, which sort of reminded me of the graphic novel Red Son, which asks what would have happened if Superman had crash landed in the 1950s on a Ukranian collective farm instead of Kansas. You’ll know what I mean when you listen to it.

Nice plot, good cast, with a slight eye on continuity at all times (although can companions read as well as speak foreign languages? TV says yes, Big Finish says no), although not so brilliant for the regulars. One to consider buying, particularly if they ever get round to creating a downloads version.

How much should you have to pay?

Actual price: £10.99

Actual worth: £8.99 (not available as a download)

Cast

Paul McGann (The Doctor)

Sheridan Smith (Lucie Miller)

Derek Griffiths (Jason Taylor)

Adrian Dunbar (McCarthy)

Lorna Want (Sally Taylor)

Nick Wilton (PC Sharp/Karimov)

Katarina Olsson (Margaret/Vitas)

Writer: Jonathan Clements

Director: Jason Haigh-Ellery

Available from Amazon.co.uk or from the occasionally unavailable Windows-based Big Finish web site