On, then, to adventure two in the three-part (or is it four-part if we include that Companion Chronicle?) Key 2 Time series, an only slightly painful affair in which the Fifth Doctor has to travel around the universe looking for the segments of the Key to Time. Again.
Part two carries on directly from part one with the arrival of the Black Guardian, played by David "son of Patrick" Troughton. But all is not as it seems and pretty soon we’re (literally) in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves territory for a historical with more than a few sci-fi overtones – and that nasty vampire from Being Human.
“You will be always looking in the wrong place. I have searched through all of Time and I cannot find it.”
The search for the Key to Time has stalled: the next segment does not appear to exist anywhere in the Universe. Forced into a temporary alliance with one of his greatest enemies, the Doctor suggests a course of action that is a validation of chaos itself.
Thrown at random across Space and Time, the Doctor and Amy arrive in 9th Century Sudan, where the greedy Lord Cassim is hoarding gold from the Legate of the Caliph. But why does Cassim look so familiar? What is the mysterious Djinni that lives out in the desert? And why does it need so much treasure?
Is it any good?
Portions of it are very good. Portions of it aren’t.
When it’s a historical, it’s very, very good. As Clements points out on those spoiling CD extras (don’t listen to them until you’ve listened to the second disc), Doctor Who originally set out to educate and The Destroyer of Delights does a good job of bringing to life ninth century Sudan. There are nice Arabic touches, such as the naming of the stars in the sky in their original, uncorrupted forms (eg Aldebaran and al-dabaran), although the script does overdo the linguistic issues ("What is al-Alien? Why don’t you speak proper Arabic?", etc, are repeated far too often). The references to the Ali Baba tale are fun, too ("Open Simsim" instead of "Open Sesame" to maintain that uncorrupted Arabic). And there are some pretty funny lines, too.
Where it goes wrong is with the Guardians, here played by David Troughton and Jason Watkins (Herrick from Being Human). In typical Big Finish style – never take anything too seriously, never take any big concept head on but back down wherever possible – the Guardians aren’t portrayed as powerful forces of Good and Evil, but wishy washy civil servant types who have lost most of their power and who grumble about their jobs. It’s really quite pathetic, neither big nor funny in fact, and makes you wonder why they bother having the Guardians in the story at all, if all they’re going to do is mess up them up and do something completely different.
There’s a romantic sub-plot that’s pretty anachronistic and never even gets up to Hollyoaks levels of maturity; attempts to give pseudo-companion Amy more character, while ambitious, ultimately fail because Ciara Janson is still playing her like she’s 12; and the sci-fi side of things involving the Key, the Djinnis and the Guardians is a little uninvolving and too fanboyish in its references to Enlightenment. It’s also way too long.
Nevertheless, it’s more enjoyable than The Judgement of Isskar, it doesn’t have the wretched Zara and it isn’t weighed down by masses of extraneous plot or Big Finish jargon. Probably worth getting if you like historicals or are planning to buy the whole of the Key 2 Time season; otherwise, give it a miss.
PS Trailer for the next story sounds awful. Am readying the giant net full of medicine balls right now.
Did it keep my brain occupied for an hour or two down the gym or did I, at various points in the play, want to trap myself under something heavy in preference to listening to any more of it?
I was okay, actually, although I did roll my eyes a lot whenever a Guardian turned up.
Peter Davison (The Doctor)
Ciara Janson (Amy)
David Troughton (The Black Guardian)
Jason Watkins (Legate of the Caliph)
Jess Robinson (Nisrin)
Bryan Pilkington (Prince Omar)
Paul Chahidi (Hason)
Will Barton (The Djinni)
David Peart (The Vizier)
Author: Jonathan Clements
Director: Lisa Bowerman