Review: Doctor Who – 125 – Paper Cuts

Paper CutsCan I ask a quick question? How valuable are these reviews of Big Finish plays to people?

The reason I’m asking is that I’m rapidly running out of patience with them. There are far more misses than hits – which are only really relative hits – and they’re actually quite painful to listen to.

I might stick around for the Missing Stories, purely to listen to Nicola Bryant (ah, Peri, etc, etc), but if no one’s desperate to know whether these things are any good or not, I think I might give up on them once I’ve dispensed with the final Charley story (play number 126).

But on with Paper Cuts, a Sixth Doctor story by Marc “I never knowingly under-write” Platt set in (or rather near) the planet Draconia. If you cast your minds back to the years of Jon Pertwee, you may recall the Draconians, a reptilian race reminiscent of feudal Japan who appeared for all of one story.

Well, now they’re back, Colin Baker’s here to help them. Unfortunately, the Emperor is dead, and Charley isn’t quite herself.

The Empire is lost.The Deathless Emperors are dead. The future may never happen.

An urgent summons returns the noble Doctor to a planet he saved from disaster long ago. But Draconia, so elegant and so savage, is in worse turmoil than ever.

Who will be next Emperor? The highest Prince? The lowest peasant? The soldier with no name? Or the Doctor himself – his life at their command? Who controls the army of deadly origami warriors? And is the truth about Charley painted on paper walls in the Emperor’s tomb?

History is taking revenge on the Doctor.

Is it any good?
Imagine a third Doctor story. Go on, imagine one. Specifically one with Jo Grant.

Done it? Well, then you’ll have Paper Cuts, albeit with Colin Baker as the Third Doctor and India Fisher as Jo Grant. It’s a very traditional plot: Doctor turns up on alien planet, we learn all about its culture, patronise it a bit, have the companion ask dumb questions and scream a lot, there’s lots of running around, lots of near-death cliffhangers, then the day gets saved by the end, and Draconia society turned on its head.

On top of that, Platt tries to expand on the pseudo-Japanese qualities of Draconian society, seemingly by making them more Egyptian/Chinese, while expanding on their reptilian sides as well.

Neither expansion is desperately exciting – in fact, in traditional Big Finish fashion, it actually makes the Draconians seem less than they did on screen, by making them seem a bunch of ridiculous idiots. I’d also, just for once, like to see an interstellar bunch of reptiles that reproduce the way fish or spiders reproduce, or an insect race that reproduces by email. Why do they always have to mirror their earth equivalents?

By the end, you’ll have noticed two things.

  1. They’ve done next to nothing, beyond have her go a bit weird at points, with the new Charley from Patient Zero
  2. The story is entirely forgettable, needlessly complicated, despite its simplicity and you really just don’t care about the characters, not even the goodies

Notable ham of the album is Sara Crowe as the Draconian Queen Mother, who’s mugging for all she’s worth. But India Fisher is way over the top for once, although given she’s playing someone impersonating Charley, that’s almost excusable. The writing for Charley is also particularly bad, and quite why anyone fails to rumble there’s something wrong with her with every line of dialogue, I don’t know.

On the whole, I’d say skip this one, because it’s a disappointment for fans of Charley, the Sixth Doctor and Draconians.

Oh yes, and by the way, there’s another episode of The Three Companions stuck on the end of this. It’s better than the last two episodes, with the Brigadier and Polly now interacting (although mainly through the fake Polly, Alice), and the links between their two seemingly different stories becoming apparent. But it’s still not exactly gripping or revealing its import at the moment.

Amazon CD: £9.99
Big Finish download: £12.99
Big Finish CD: £14.99

Colin Baker (The Doctor)
India Fisher (Charley Pollard)
Anthony Glennon (Prince/The Red Emperor in His Youth)
Sara Crowe (Tombkeeper – Queen Mother)
Paul Thornley (Gomori/Steward)
John Banks (Soldier)
Nicholas Briggs (Prefect/The Deathless Red Emperor)
The Cast (Sazou/Deathless Emperors)

Author: Marc Platt
Director: Nicholas Briggs


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.