Teeth and Curls: It’s the perfect representation of the season 17 Doctor (but then I would expect nothing less of Morris), bursting from the TARDIS all hat and scarf and making fatuous remarks before turning deadly serious when they discover a body almost immediately. That mixture of the frivolous and the quietly menacing that made him such an interesting character in those days. He has as much of a knack of getting out of trouble as he does getting into it! He and Romana are quite fascinating and have a great deal to offer to the Babblesphere.
Standout Performance: Ooh Lal-la, your fourth Doctor is startlingly accurate. Her Matt Smith is phenomenal too.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘If there’s one thing we can be certain of in an uncertain universe it’s that everything goes wrong eventually.’
‘Nobody’s thoughts are private. Not since the Babble network started’ – replace Babble network with Twitter and you’ll see what this story is getting at.
‘There was nothing we couldn’t do if we all put our minds to it.’
‘As it became more popular people didn’t want to be left out…’ – a fabulous line, showing how insidious fads can be and how dangerous if there was a exploitative mind behind it.
‘People used it to gossip. To talk about the trivial minutiae of their lives. Everybody had to share everything. Every waking thought with everybody else no matter how private. Even I had to take part. I had to hear what people were saying about me…’ – is Morris talking directly to the audience here?
‘The superficiality and insularity of an entire civilisation feeding of itself ad infinitum. This was babble.’
Great Ideas: Let’s be honest some writers can be known to wither and die over a period of time once they have run out of ideas or given everything than have to the show. It happened to Terrance Dicks (who is still churning out the odd belter but mostly regurgitates his own work these days), it happened David Whitaker (who started off writing gems like The Crusade and finished producing something as generic as The Wheel in Space) and some people could even make an argument for Steven Moffat whose recent The Bells of Saint John was nothing much but an entertaining collection of ideas and scenes that have already been done before, better. Somehow the fertile ploughs of Jonathan Morris’ mind however don’t seem to have been affected no matter how prolific he has become. He began by producing novels the quality of Festival of Death and The Tomorrow Windows, a few years back his audios were the highlights of the range with cracking stories such as Max Warp, The Haunting of Thomas Brewster and The Glorious Revolution and in the past year there has been no sign of his work suffering with more terrific installments coming in the shape of The Curse of Davros, Protect and Survive and The Auntie Matter. It’s not even as though he has an in-house style because he has proven he can turn his hand to anything from traditional (Bloodtide, Ressurection of Mars) to anything but (the aforementioned Protect and Survive especially).
Audio Landscape: The exploding surface of the planet, walking through rubble, the blinking, bleeping robot, lasers, foil wrapping, the clunky computer spitting out computer paper, connecting to the Babblesphere, the unending voices talking endless chatter.
Result: A delicious idea, startlingly original for Doctor Who and a gorgeous parable on the dangers of social networking, Babblesphere is a triumph for the Destiny of the Doctor range and the most successful installment so far. It manages to feel both contemporary (in how it discusses the dangers and intoxication of the distribution of so many unguarded thoughts) and traditional (essentially it is a rebels versus the state story) all taking place in a vivid evoked location. The nearest bedfellow I can think of is Steve Lyons’ novel Stealers of Dreams which also built a story around outlawing a facet of humanity that comes naturally (imagination) and explored the idea in a way that amused and provided and avenue for some dark psychological suggestions. I could listen to Lalla Ward read out the telephone directory if she played it in the same way that she does Romana and I am pleased to see her enjoying material of this calibre after the dismal quality of the latest Gallifrey series. The trip into the Babblesphere is my favourite set piece of this range to date, a scathing critique of the internet (although it’s even funnier if you think of it solely as the Doctor Who forums) with no one member immune from prosecution (I am certainly guilty of some of the points raised). A poke in the eye for uniformity and a celebration of autonomous thought, Babblesphere imaginatively and intelligently tackles its concept and provided me with a great many laughs along the way. Douglas Adams would certainly approve: 9/10