Monday, 23 April 2018
The Taste of Death written and directed by Helen Goldwyn
Mockney Dude: How like the tenth Doctor to take Rose to the most luxurious planet in the galaxy, if you buy into the idea that this one long date around the universe for the pair of them. And how like the Doctor to sniff out a mystery on the one place where you can be sure to relax entirely. His banter with Rose is cute, in fact it’s cuter than it was between Tennant and Piper at time because that irritatingly smugness isn’t there in Dudman’s Rose. He’s very thin so he hardly looks like a great lover of food. It’s a good point…how the hell did he fit into that pinstripe suit? The whole thing would barely fit my leg. He thinks there’s no one better than angry slaves to bring down a bad guy.
Chavvy Chick: What is it about Rose taking on a role in a kitchen undercover? At least this time she’s the head chef instead of dishing up chips. Unfortunately, her cover I exposed due to the fact that she is skinny. Rose’s reaction to the return of the Slitheen is the biggest eye roll in the galaxy.
Standout Performance: Uncanny. That’s how I would describe Jake Dudman’s performance as the Tenth Doctor (and Rose, who he gets a good flavour of too but that’s a less impressive feat). We’ve become accustomed to the idea of actors being recast in Big Finish, essentially all the lead actors who played the Doctor have been in the Companion Chronicles but it’s got around brilliantly by having the stories told from the point of view of various companions, giving their take on a particular Doctor. Dudman achieves a great feat, not only does he sound like David Tennant in the role but he captures the essence of his performance too. Wide eyed, full of wonder, excitement and blazing anger. It’s a formidable turn that makes easing into a series of tenth Doctor stories without Tennant very comfortable. He’s an adept narrator too.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘So much evil in the name of profit.’
Great Ideas: Resort planets are for once in a lifetime holidays and they are extremely expensive. Several chefs have left the restaurant without a trace. Lots of people going missing, a large number of fat people about gorging on food (but the restaurant setting does disguise that quite nicely for a while) …it could only be the return of the Slitheen! I still adore these reptilian nasties that were the first vivid monster of the new series. You know, one that stuck and had several other appearances. Can’t deal with the farting? Davies might have overplayed his hand with that but it’s good to remember that children are supposed to enjoy this show as well and introducing them to an idea like monsters that will literally flay their victims and wear their bodies, Hannibal Lecteur style, needs a little toning down of the more graphic content to make it work. They’re a comical race, which some people have trouble getting their head around, but not always and it was in the darker moments of World War Three, Boom Town and their appearances in Sarah Jane Adventures that impressed me the most. Although Margaret’s delivery of ‘the telephone is actually RED!’ still makes me howl to this day. Plus, their plan in Aliens of London is still one of the most audacious and ambitious attempts to destroy the Earth. I truly love that story for its scope and its personal attack on politics and the Slitheen were the catalyst for that. The Brula are a slave race, utilised by the Slitheen. They’ve brought a crop over from their home world (see how I go out of spelling Raxicori…oh whatever) which they are secreting in the food. The kindest of families from Raxicorcopha-oh bugger this are buying the livers thinking they are coming from the bluestones, when in fact they are being supplied by the Slitheen.
Audio Landscape: Reaching back into the misty depths of the sixties and the first Dalek story, the monsters of Doctor Who have been highlighted by the glorious sounds effects that come with them. For the Slitheen it is the pulse of electricity that comes with them unzipping and stepping out of their suits. It’s distinctive, unique and you can’t ask for more than that.
Result: Really fun, Big Finish have a really good hit rate when it comes to the tenth Doctor because his character really suits the sort of frothy fun that they like to serve up for the new series. They’ve acquired a new super weapon too in the form of Jake Dudman, an outstanding mimic who brings the tenth Doctor to life with absolute authenticity. The last time I heard a Helen Goldwyn directed story it was the superlative Time in Office and The Taste of Death confirms that she’s a natural at bringing audio drama to life, and this time she is working from her own material too so it’s a very personal piece. She’s clearly got a good handle on the Tennant years, the fun and frolics as well as the social commentary and its particular brand of personal characterisation. The resort planet is just like one of those gimmicky worlds that Russell T Davies loved visiting, having the Doctor declare it’s amazing and then just when you’re about facepalm he would add lots of depth and detail to it that surprised you. And nothing screams Davies era madness more than those pesky Slitheen who are back for another round of profit-mongering chaos. I really enjoy their appearances, but then I’m a mad fan of the Graham Williams era, and they feel as though they have sprung straight out of a Douglas Adams script edited tale; all biological quirks, social commentary and crazy imaginative schemes. Their plan involves slavery and mass slaughter and yet somehow this is the lightest of tales. I don’t know how they do it. How bizarre it is to look back at series one with a sense of nostalgia now. And that’s essentially what this story is. It isn’t going to blow you away with originality (indeed in SJA’s The Gift the Slitheen were using food as a weapon) but instead take you back to a time when Doctor Who was a very different beast to what it is today. Whatever you think of the Davies era will determine your enjoyment. It’s one of my favourites in Doctor Who’s entire run so I lapped it up. The one truly surprising element is Dudman, playing multiple roles and the narrator and giving each one his all. What a find: 7/10