What’s it about: This is a warning to all space farers. You must keep away from this planet. It’s hostile, repeat, hostile. On a planet with no name, the Doctor finds himself confronted by a faulty memory and some killer plants. In a distant galaxy, Erimem leads a troubled empire. Back on Earth, Peri tells her son about the good old days when she used to travel with a man called The Doctor.
An English Gentleman: Is there no end to his genius and has a pearl of wisdom for every occasion. Ever the hero the Doctor agrees to be Hayton’s guinea pig and step into Peri and Erimem’s dreams. The Doctor has name dropped Harry Houdini so many times now over various incarnations I think we are due a first Doctor companion chronicles where they meet and get caught up in an alien invasion that requires some expert escapism. I think the first instance of his name is in Planet of the Spiders but I am willing to be corrected on that. The Doctor starts to figure how this world works and conjures up doors to escape through. In the world of dreams would a formidable foe; his imagination could probably see a way out of any situation.
Busty Babe: Peri is living on Earth again with a loving husband and troublesome son. In Kyle’s eyes Peri is a the wicked stepmother and she is having to put up with all the tantrums and door slamming that comes with it. When it comes to discipline at home it is Peri who wears the trousers. As Peri’s dream starts to break down Kyle suffers from Meningitis, she catches her boyfriend in bed with her best friend and running away from them she gets hit by a car. Then her dream twists that around and becomes her ultimate fantasy; she barely has a scratch from her accident, Kyle is healthy again and there was never a question of an affair…Peri’s best friend was simply trying on a dress that Alex was going to surprise her with on an engagement hinging cruise. When the Doctor tries to step in and convince her that her life with Alex and Kyle is a lie she asks him to leave and her fantasy family turn on him. Her subconscious does everything it can to keep her within the dream and a petrol tanker crashes into A&E. Erimem is not certain if she wants to stop travelling with them or not, she is not sure if her dreams were telling her it was time to go.
Dusky Queen: New Cairo was built by the ancestors of Queen Erimem and she has taken up the mantle of power in the 25th Century. One thing she always learnt from the Doctor is that you should never fail to look you opponents in the eye. She has ruled since the colony was founded 25 years ago. Erimem has encased the Pyramids in plastic so that the people will never forget their heritage, where they came from. When she is woken from her dreams she is told that she must have an extremely well developed ego to have conjured up such an important role for herself within the dream and she laughs in affirmation. She sighs that polite soldiers do not exist when she is held hostage.
Standout Performance: Barnaby Edwards never fails to impress with his ability to draw in some fantastic names to his casts and Thomas Brodie Sangster is just about the dream casting of the role of Kyle. Owen Teale always gives 100% in every role I have seen him in (he was perfectly chilling when asked to play an inbred cannibal in Torchwood and he even managed to make the thankless role of a guard impressive in Vengeance on Varos).
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Peri this isn’t real, its like some bad soap opera concocted by your imagination!’ – what else do you expect from the most melodramatic of Americans?
Great Ideas: Wrong footing the audience from the off, The Mind’s Eye offers three entire plausible narratives that show the Doctor, Peri and Erimem no longer travelling together and leaving the audience wondering what could have happened to have split them up. Jekylls are creatures with a split personality. The military believe that the cairopytes have potential as a weapon because they can anethesise their victims and feed on the neural waves of their victims – mind parasites. They send you into a coma, a deep sleep that they plants share with you whilst they are sucking all the goodness from your imagination. A machine based on alien technology that can allow humanity to read and explore people’s dreams. Peri and Erimem are trapped in complex neurological dreamscapes conjured by the plants. If people die in the dream they die in reality too. Interesting how the plants draw on you subconscious desires and give you the chance to work at something you desire – in Erimem’s case it is to create a monument to her Empire and in Peri’s case it is to have a family but in both it is not something that is handed down on a plate. These dreams are more insidious by adding a rebellion and a wayward step son so the dreamer is completely absorbed into working through these problems and making their dreams a reality. I really like the idea of a planet where the animal and plant life work in sync, the Jekylls attacking the survey mission and sharing their bounty with the plants.
Audio Landscape: This story is brought to life with exceptional clarity considering the insane nature of the script and I was never once lost about which time period I was in or what was going on. That on its own is a minor miracle but to add to that the sound design at ERS is a thing of beauty and there are scenes in this story where if you shut your eyes you are within the story with planes roaring overhead, spaceships exploding and enjoying a good old singsong. Birds chittering, insects humming in the undergrowth, the Doctor shot, door slamming, tape rewinding, running water, door knocking, cutting through undergrowth, hospital atmosphere conjured up with intercoms, coughing and trolleys being pushed, the car screeching and smacking into Peri, explosions, glass breaking, rubble falling, the savage plant life attacking.
Isn’t it Odd: I would never want to take the mickey out of anything that tries to break with the format as much as The Mind’s Eye does and opening with three disparate and mysterious plot threads for each of the regulars sees this story trying its damdest to draw the listener in. What’s a shame is that by the end of the first episode we know precisely that Peri and Erimem are in dreamscapes and how and can start guessing plot twists well ahead of their time. Its far too soon to be in the loop and would have made a far more interesting story had the mystery of their new lives been dragged out until the end of episode two. As soon as there is talk of people dying within the dreams that is followed up with a scene of Erimem being threatened with murder in a crushingly predictable cliffhanger – its precisely that sort of logical, linear storytelling a dream story should be avoiding. What is the most predictable plot twist this story could have taken…Hayton the scientist is as bent as a straw and wants to exploit the commercially viable mind control properties of the plants. The Doctor even says the (so far beyond cliché its almost done a sling back and become innovative) line ‘I thought you were a scientist!’
Standout Scene: The end of episode two came out of nowhere and whilst we had been warned of potential deaths in the dreams I never thought that Brake would go so far as to have Peri being mown down by a car. The ending for Ukarme is awesomely powerful as he finds his way back to the TARDIS with his sister and they join the crew and set sail into space…in reality his greatest dreams are a fiction being dreamed up whilst the plants slowly and insidiously consume his body. Sick and brilliant, taking one of Doctor Who’s most joyous clichés and turning into something sinister.
Result: With the news of Erimem’s impending departure how clever to open a story with her already having left the Doctor and setting up shop on a colony in the future. Maybe it is cutting him down an episode and forcing a tighter script or perhaps the writer has learnt from past mistakes but The Mind’s Eye is hugely superior to Colin Brake’s previous audio - Three’s a Crowd. He throws so many ideas into the script that the audience doesn’t have time to get bored and whereas the regulars were handled dreadfully in his debut script all the Doctor, Peri & Erimem get some superb material here that once proves that it is one of the finest TARDIS teams Big Finish have produced. Several things stop this from being a complete success however; Brake’s plotting is too linear for its own good (simplistically so) and he fails to play about with the nature of reality in a way that is usually a given in these stories preferring instead to ultimately tell a far more traditional Doctor Who story. However there is a pace and sense of drama about this story that keeps it interesting and the direction has a drive and atmosphere to it that makes this story well worth a listen. Whilst this is a good story I honestly think Barnaby Edwards could direct the ass of anything (a shopping list) and make it work: 8/10
Mission of the Viyrans written by Nicholas Briggs and directed by Barnaby Edwards
What’s it about: The Doctor and Peri take a holiday on the planet Gralista Social, but soon discover they aren't the only time-travelling aliens in town.
An English Gentleman: The Doctor is distracted which Peri puts down to old age and intoxication.
Busty Babe: Peri is not in the mood for socialising, she’s been through a lot lately. Dreams are private and she doesn’t like sharing. . You have to earn her trust and wont get anywhere by threatening her. She feels sad about losing Erimem.
Great Ideas: Peri being interrogated by herself is quite alarming. Peri has told her story 307 times previous to this one in the course of her treatment. The Viyrans find language difficult to understand but can assimilate languages. They cure races by finding patient zero, healing them and expunging the memory of the whole incident.
Audio Landscape: Heavy breathing, water flowing, crickets humming, snoring, I really liked the sequence where Peri was infected and all the sounds around her started to blur away until all we had was her voice and even that was muffled, flying glass coffins shooting past, an owl hooting,
Isn’t it Odd: For the first ten minutes of this story I might have well have created a line of cocaine on my desk and sniffed it all up for all the sense that it made. Its all very well telling stories that jump about the narrative but you have lay down a few ground rules before you start having fun otherwise it is just random weirdness. Every time we seem to be within reach of an explanation the director press the fast forward button on the dialogue or cuts to another scene!
Notes: Whilst this isn’t the most auspicious start for the Viyrans its nice to see that they were well thought through from start with throwaway lines in this story such as memory erasure (Blue Forgotten Planet) and patient zero (umm…Patient Zero) proving to be important lynchpins to future stories.
Result: Mission of the Viyrans is like one of those specially written scenes you get for comic relief which bridges the gap between stories like The Parting of the Ways and The Christmas Invasion. It is in no way a satisfying story within its own right but more a teaser for what is to come. It scores points over 100 Days of the Doctor for not looking to the past for its inspiration but the future and hints of the Viyrans abilities and Erimem’s departure would both bear fruit before long. There’s some nice technical jiggery pokery and Nicola Bryant (as ever) gives it her all but there is nothing especially memorable about this interlude and it is the first one parter that doesn’t feel like a story in its own right: 5/10
Buy it from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/102-Doctor-Who-The-Minds-Eye