What’s it about: Responding to a desperate summons from the Doctor's future self, he and Peri find themselves on a sailing ship in 1492, where the crewmen are gripped by superstitious fear. They say the Devil walks among them, stalking and striking them down. Even though they have landed in paradise, they fear that 'El Diablo' himself will drag them over the edge of the world and into the depths of Hell. When the Doctor and Peri meet the captain of the ship, they both discover that heroes can sometimes behave unheroically. Peri's reaction leads her into deep water, and soon the Doctor fears not only for her life but also for the existence of the ship, the paradise island, and the universe itself...
(Not so) Softer Six: Nev Fountain has such a superb grasp of the sixth Doctor, in the audio range he is like the Robert Holmes of the TV series at the time, offering a much maligned character such wonderful material. The only person I can ever imagine the egotistical sixth Doctor willingly going on a mission for is himself, and perhaps Margaret Thatcher (The Ultimate Adventure). The opening scene reveals that this is set quite soon after Revelation of the Daleks, despite the inclusion of the Trial of a Time Lord theme music. They are still sniping at each other continuously (in Fountain’s hands this is much more of a strength than it ever was on television) and rather wonderfully find that they cannot communicate at all – he is talking in Time Lord technobabble and she is trapped in the vernacular of 80s American teen speak. Peri thinks that the eleventh Doctor looks like what the Doctor’s son might look like if he ever showed the slightest inclination to settle down and start a family. With the sixth Doctor that idea is about as far away from a reality as I can imagine, at least at this stage in his life (perhaps not when Evelyn comes along and they adopt Thomas Brewster into their dysfunctional family). Matt Smith’s geeky Doctor thinks that the sixth incarnation has the most wonderfully chic coat and the best sense of fashion out of all of his previous selves – go figure! Upon meeting a goat, the Doctor declares the animal his new best friend clearly finds more intellectual worth in the creature than Peri. When he spies an omniparadox he declares it one of the most beautiful things he has ever seen despite it’s raw, destructive temporal energy. Maybe he did regenerate into a cat, obsessed with moving shiny objects. Peri’s criticism that the Doctor makes no time for the little people during his adventures is absurd, he more often than not does little else. When the Doctor thinks that Peri has fallen to her death he is genuinely distressed, all that mock consternation dropping away as he has to face the fact that he has lost his best friend. Some might find it cold that he quickly moves on to try and stop the universe from ending, but it is perfectly in character (and he does admit that his own personal universe feels as though it has come to an end). Why is it when he tries to explain anything to people these days they just run away from him? Nobody baits villains like old Sixie, he seems to have a remarkable amount of disdain for anybody who is up to no good and isn’t afraid to let them know it.
Sparkling Dialogue: Bringing together the witty and verbose Nev Fountain and the witty and verbose sixth Doctor is a collision of multifarious wordplay that could cause a lingual space/time event…
‘Americans! They can put a man on the moon but not a conjunction in a sentence!’
‘We are quite literally sailing off the edge of the world!’
‘Don’t you understand Columbus? None of us have much time! If I don’t locate the omniparadox, the whole universe will collapse in 45 minutes!’ – the sort of line that Colin Baker was put on this Earth to exclaim with melodramatic flair…or at least Nicola Bryant doing an apoplectic Colin Baker impression.
‘My fat deposits couldn’t power anything! I’m only a little heifer!’ – Fountain creates the most macabre alien technology made from human body parts and then proceeds to poke fun at it.
‘The United States has always seemed a bit to strange and wonderful to be true.’
‘The Doctor has gone, thank goodness, and all is finally well’ – a reaction often attributed to the sixth Doctor’s departure!
Isn’t it Odd: I wish somebody had reined Cameron Stewart a little bit when it came to his turn as the Bovine leader. It is precisely the sort of performance that non-fans would expect of guest actors when apprehensively approaching a Doctor Who story, overly arch and insanely over the top. Had these lines been played a lot quieter they would have had much more effect. I bet Cameron had to gargle some salt after this days recording.
Standout Scene: ‘Peri! You have to understand! I thought I had lost you! I had to find a new companion from somewhere and Neddy seemed to fit the bill. Noisy, angry, eats anything, always butting heads…’
Result: The last time Nev Fountain and John Ainsworth colluded on a Doctor Who audio the resulting product was Peri & the Piscon Paradox, which is easily one of the most piquant entries of the companion chronicles range. Can they reach such heights again? Yes, and no. Fountain is far too intelligent a writer to simply try and recreate something that was previously well-liked and this is as much a different beast to his preceding story as his double length companion chronicle was to The Kingmaker. Trouble in Paradise is a game of two halves but they are both very good in their own right. The first half is a scathing examination of the much-criticised relationship between the sixth Doctor and Peri, using Columbus as a catalyst to set them at each others throats over the morality of travelling through time. It is pretty much plotless, focussing squarely on the characters but since the material is so well pitched and delivered with such passion by Nicola Bryant it doesn’t matter one jot. Fountain makes brilliant observations about things that we have come to take for granted about the show (Doctors crossing paths/interfering with history/deciding who is worth saving) and comments wittily on the most caustic of Doctor/companion relationships. Once they have been separated, the plot kicks into high gear and things aren’t quite as potent for a while, primarily down to an unsubtle performance by Cameron Stewart who jettisons any chance of menace from the Bovine intelligence that has been carefully crafted by the writer. Whilst a little heavy on exposition, the way the story ties itself up without the Doctor having to do a thing but figure out the temporal lunacy and comment sarcastically on events is rather beautiful. I can’t complain too much with about a story that bursts with this much wit and imagination and one that offers such a piercing portrayal of Christopher Columbus. The moment when he steps into the TARDIS is one for posterity. And Neddy should have left with the Doctor and Peri during the upbeat and very satisfying climax: 8/10