Sunday, 30 May 2010
The One Doctor written by Gareth Roberts & Clayton Hickman and directed by Gary Russell
What’s it about? When the evil Skelloids launch an attack upon the seventeen worlds of the Generios system, its peace-loving inhabitants face total destruction. So it's fortunate that the famous traveller in time and space known only as the Doctor is in the area, and doubly lucky that, with the help of his pretty young assistant, Sally-Anne, he manages to defeat the deadly creatures and save the day. But now it looks as though the Doctor¹s luck has run out. Who is the mysterious, curly-haired stranger who insists on causing trouble? What role does the feisty redhead Melanie play in his scheme? And what have they to do with the sinister alien cylinder approaching Generios? One thing is certain: for the Doctor and Sally-Anne, there¹s deadly danger ahead ...
Softer Six: This is where it had finally cemented in everybody’s minds that the sixth Doctor was the reigning champion of the audio adventures, that he had totally swept away his post regenerative slumber and was firing on all cylinders in a way that was totally unique to himself. Whether he was battle monsters alongside Peri, Evelyn or Mel this was the Doctor that Colin Baker wanted to play and we love him to pieces for all the right reasons. No wonder he won the best Doctor poll this year instead of lacking behind in last position as always. It was a vindication of the sixth Doctor and about bloody time!
He is (as we all know) extremely theatrical and melodramatically plays monopoly with Mel as though he is a power crazed dictator who likes to win! He tries to control the TARDIS and hates the vulgar end of time and he has never been to Generios before. He can usually sense the proximity of another self nearby as his hair stands on end. He suggests once looking a photo of Banto posing as the Doctor that all of his previous incarnations have tried to maintain a certain Olympian dignity. Hilariously he cannot quite get out of the habit of talking in the language of Pip’n’Jane and asks Mel how her wilting willow impression is rather than simply telling her that he has a plan. The Doctor is a corridor veteran which is really funny way of looking at budget cuts! There are tons of digs about his weight (‘You’re not exactly sylph like!’) which only serves to make him more adorable. He declares to Banto that he is the one and only Doctor and there is nobody he would rather be. Described as a curly head piece. His brilliant escape plan to smash in the door with the food dispenser is by his own words ‘force with a little finesse.’ Having the answers to everything is one of the advantages of being very old. How wonderful is it for somebody to fancy the unfanciable sixth Doctor by of course he plays hard to get for the most part, only giving her a kiss when he gets very excited. The Doctor has never gotten used to arriving on a new planet. He’s very clever and possibly very sexy and his companions are supposed to rouse him from his slums of despond. In a wonderful spout of egotism he thinks he can take on the greatest mind in the universe…and win! His three wishes on his 900th birthday were peace throughout the galaxy, better control of the TARDIS and more manageable hair! He admires the Spraxis Jelloids and is called a pompous bore. He talks about the beauty of the universe and being eaten by the Jelloid in the same breath! The Jelloid thinks he has an honest face so he simply gives him the greatest treasure in the Generious system. At the story’s climax he puts on an appalling cockney accent and snogs Sally-Anne! Despite all of the insults he will rescue Banto from his grisly fat. He has his companions because he cannot do it alone. The Doctor states (quite rightly too) that the universe is only ready for one Doctor at the moment.
Generous Ginge: Somehow…somehow Roberts and Clayton manage to highlight all of Mel’s overdone morality, enthusiasm and squeaky cleanliness and make her utterly wonderful at the same time! They manage this by showing just how much fun she and the Doctor could have had in the TARDIS and by comparing them with their inept alter egos! She is appalled by the Doctor’s theatrics and she was a girl guide which he finds hilarious. Mel has the most fantastic ringlets! It is great to see Mel lusted after rather than Peri and Banto comes onto her at various stages of the story with little success. I loved the exchange between her and Sally-Anne who cannot comprehend that anyone could be so desperately sweet: ‘You can drop the goody two shows act!’ ‘What act?’ declares Mel innocently! Because of his weight usually the Doctor is lagging behind her. She is very brave in the face of danger and thinks there’s no point in worrying until you know you’re in trouble. Mel’s Christmas speech is bloody brilliant, hilarious and full of warmth and taking the piss out of her character in the most affectionate of ways. She likes asking questions and being the one to prompt the Doctor and gets annoyed when Sally-Anne tries to take over. Alternatively she steps on the Doctor’s toes by facing up to the monsters before him! Banto tells her that she is the most beautiful, intelligent and spirited woman he has ever met and asks her to marry him but she has to refuse because she is an android! The extra at the end of the disc sees the Doctor and Mel cosying up to a log fire and enjoying a Christmas sherry and it is possibly the warmest moment between any Doctor and companion.
Great Ideas: This story is packed full of them – it is one of those quest stories like The Keys of Marinus and The Chase only its really, really good – a bit like The Tomorrow Windows! The vulgar end of time is where everybody knows everybody else’s business, everything has been discovered, technology has made every pleasure affordable and all the interesting wars have been fought and won. The Skelloids are described as ferocious aliens from deep space. What a fantastic idea it is to have the Doctor pissed off that he has to save another civilisation only to be trumped as he has already done it before he has arrived! Someone trading off the Doctor’s reputation, turning up on an unsuspecting planet and faking an invasion for financial recompense is absolute genius! Apparently Banto brandishes his psychic screwdriver and travels in the STARDIS – which is smaller on the inside than the out! The Cylinder that appears in the sky is very menacing and its purpose is to collect tribute or it will destroy everything in the Generious system. The Assembler robots control a dead planet and roam around a huge warehouse obsessing over furniture. They are creatures of pure reason and have a homicidal hatred of humans…they are chatty and they sure giggle a lot! An enormous amphitheatre ruin houses Mentos – the greatest repository of knowledge in the universe who has been playing the game Superbrain for the past 33,000 years. The box is linked to a team of electronic research gatherers suspended in a shadow universe and they work tirelessly to ensure the Mentos device can answer any question. Brilliantly Sally-Anne foxes him with the only question he cannot answer: ‘What don’t you know?’ The Shelves of Infinity can never be assembled as parts of them exist in different dimensions! Mel and Banto bluff that they have finished because the Assemblers can never have seen the finished product. It must have taken geological extremes to create a diamond the size of the greatest treasure of Generios. The Doctor is gobbled up by one of the Spraxis Jelloids! The Jelloid is waiting in for an entertainment unit and doesn’t want to leave this spot because ‘you go out and they turn up – it always happens!’ He has been waiting for nearly two million years for it to arrive. It turns out that the Cylinder never wanted the treasures…they were after the Doctor for some unknown crime he has committed in the future and so they set a task that only he could complete and because of his vanity (he is under the misapprehension that he will be receiving a monetary reward) they take Banto instead! The Doctor – ever a show off – tries to make it snow in the console room with disastrous consequences!
Standout Performance: Who else but the incorrigible Christopher Biggins, one of our national treasures and an absolute hoot as the conman Banto Zame. He is hilarious throughout and has many laugh out loud confrontations with the similarly verbose sixth Doctor. Just read some of the dialogue listed below to see what a marvellous character this is.. Claire Buckfield’s Sally-Anne is only a heartbeat away – a common space troll with a huge crush on the cuddly sixth Doctor and who learns to become a better person in his company.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Time’s winged chariot marches on especially for a Time Lord!’
‘It must have been the excitement of being that close to the Doctor!’ enthuses Mel after fainting!
‘Please be gentle with them…its really very sad’ says Banto as the Doctor and Mel are marched away as over excited fans.
‘You don’t get the same effect with audio – people actually want to see the monsters!’
‘That voice sounded fishy to me’ ‘Oh of aquatic origin you think?’ ‘No, Doctor!’
‘I would rather pluck out my own eyes with a pair of rusty forceps than ever see you again!’
‘I’ve seen your eyes roving all over that ginger piece!’
‘I’ve got a memory like and elephant…it’s a running gag I share with the Doctor.’ ‘Oh I bet the hours just fly by!’
‘Don’t talk to me about giving up because I’m a Bush and Bushes never do!’
‘Awe inspiring in that coat? Have you taken a look in the mirror recently? Come to think of it I shouldn’t think you do much else!’ ‘I intend to rise above your barbs…but before I do I’d like to say that this coat can only be appreciated by someone with a sharpened aesthetic sense – not a dunderhead like you!’ ‘Sharpened aesthetic sense? Sharpened by what a dose of mind altering drugs?’ ‘I warn you a verbal duel with me would only lead to ignominy for you!’ ‘Igno-what? Talking with you is like arguing with a thesaurus!’
‘It’s a gigantic body composed almost entirely of super heated gas.’ ‘Rather like you then!’ ‘If I have to endure another insult…’ ‘Oh here we go another voyage around the English language!’
‘Luck you were wearing that coat, no way of knowing someone’s just been sick over it!’
Audio Landscape: The Doctor’s grandiose speech of an opening eases you into the story with all the subtlety of farting during a wedding ceremony! I love the Horns of Nimon style TARDIS noises. There is a riotous crowd to beat all riotous crowds with lots of bottle gurgling which then devolves into an all consuming conga dance routine! The Cylinder makes its presence aware with a very powerful audio attack and its voice is like a crack of electricity and a grumble of thunder all at once. The destruction of the 11th planet is practically an audio afterthought with a bolt whizzing past and the planet exploding in the distance but it does show off the awesome hand wave of the Cylinder. There is an awful gurgling toilet noise as the STARDIS dematerialises. Two hearts beat very healthily in the Doctor’s chest. Generios 8 is some very creepy echoey corridors. Generios 13 is a windswept plain. The whirring bleeping Assembler robots cry out ‘DISSASEMBLE THEM! DISASEMBLE THEM! NOOOOOOW!’ The horrendous Delaware theme tune is used during episode three! Mentos playing Superbrain does sound very Weakest Link with treading on any copyrighters toes. I love scene where Banto asks how they are going to make the Shelves of Infinity without a screwdriver and a door opens and one is chucked in the room – so simple but what a great audio gag. The bubbling lavascapes surrounding the Jelloid are very impressive. The Jelloid makes some very upsetting noises especially the squelchy sound of its gastric tracks when the Doctor is inside its stomach and the gagging noise just before it throws him up! On the plus side the Jelloid’s song is adorable!
Musical Cues: The music in this story is phenomenal; Alistair Lock tips his hat to a number of blockbuster movies and makes sure The One Doctor is as enjoyable as it can possibly be. All of his instruments are broken out to announce the arrival of the Cylinder – what a dramatic sting! I love the comedy shelf making music, very unusual and funny. There is a gorgeous festive tune as Mel recalls her Christmas story to save the old folks from festive borderm. How great is the jolly tune as the Assemblers head off into the sunset to make an occasional table and some throws! I love the low horn as the Doctor is eaten by the Jelloid, its funny and gross at the same time!
Isn’t it Odd: This is my most listened to Doctor Who audio bar none – I must have heard it over 30 times now and I still love every second of it and it still makes me laugh in all the right places. Now that’s staying power!
Result: The crowning achievement of Big Finish. Don’t listen to those people who say that it is Chimes of Midnight…although that story is fabulous too but it far easier to scare people than it is to make them laugh and The One Doctor makes you really laugh. There is never sense that the writers are trying to take the piss out of the show but merely affectionately poke at its extremes and for a story that sees the sixth Doctor and Mel having the piss taken out of them so much they come off with more dignity and humour than any serious story could achieve. Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford deliver peerless performances and Christopher Biggins and Clare Buckfield are an absolute delight as their cahoots and alter egos. I may have moaned at Gary Russell’s constant turns in the director’s chair but his work here is nothing short of genius and the music and sound effects really drive the story along. Full points to Clayton and Roberts for such a witty script with so many great one liners for the actors to gobble up and tons of fantastic ideas as well. This story was a total surprise when I first heard it and I cannot think of a single Doctor Who story that cheers me up more. Orgasmically good: 10/10
Artwork by Simon Hodges @ http://hisi79.deviantart.com/