Everyone loves a gun- wielding tortoise…
off the air, and some of the most fondly remembered were written by Gareth Roberts ( who eventually became a frequent writer for the new series). Now, Roberts’s first New Adventure, The Highest Science, has been adapted for audio by Big Finish. It’s an enjoyable romp featuring the Seventh Doctor alongside regular spin- off companion Bernice Summerfield ( Lisa Bowerman).
As the TARDIS crew embark on an unexpected quest on a deserted planet, there’s danger from a variety of sources, including the militaristic, tortoise- like alien Chelonians, while the fast- paced plot throws in lots of strong dialogue and imaginative concepts. What it can’t do is disguise the one- dimensional chief villain or the frequently random storytelling, resulting in a fizzle of a climax that feels as if Roberts simply ran out of plot. However, Bowerman once again makes a lively Who companion, and this is ultimately an entertaining if not quite essential listen.
Over in the regular monthly releases, the Sixth Doctor and Peri are pitched against a new incarnation of an old enemy. The Rani Elite sees the TARDIS arriving at a prestigious galactic academy – but a significant professor there has been replaced by renegade Time Lady the Rani ( Siobhan Redmond), who’s embarking on another lethal plan… There are some well- crafted plot twists here and the script makes good use of the Rani’s amoral nature, while both Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are on excellent form. Unfortunately, Redmond’s performance as the Rani is a little flat, meaning this story doesn’t always hit the notes it aims for.
Finally, over in the Early Adventures range, there’s quieter, more reflective drama in An Ordinary Life, set during the Hartnell era’s 12- part epic “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. On the run from the Daleks, the First Doctor, Steven Taylor and Sara Kingdom make an unscheduled stop in ’ 50s London, where they take shelter with a newly- arrived Jamaican family. When the Doctor apparently abandons his companions, Steven and Sara are left to try and cope with everyday life. The first two episodes are characterful drama with well- played depth. The second half of the story isn’t as strong, instead going for a more traditional Invasion Of The Body Snatchers- style tale of alien possession, but despite the flaws this is still an interesting example of Who exploring difficult and challenging themes. Saxon Bullock Also coming out ( from BBC Audio on 15 January): a reading of Tom Baker tale “Full Circle” by Matthew Waterhouse ( Adric). For the novel, Gaiman wrote the Four Horsemen while Pratchett wrote Adam and Them, sharing copy on floppy discs.