Monday, 9 July 2018

Kill the Doctor! written by Guy Adams and directed by Nicholas Briggs

What’s it about: The TARDIS crew arrive on the planet Drummond, an Earth colony in the far future where everybody uses handheld computers from morning to night. Rania Chuma is the mastermind behind, the datastream network that tells you everything you need to know. Anyone who’s anyone uses But ever since Rania was young she’s heard a voice in her head. That voice is the key to’s success. And it’s a voice the Doctor might find familiar. Whilst Leela chases a thief, the Doctor looks into the planet’s datastream and something evil looks back. A subliminal command flashes through to Drummond’s entire population: ‘Kill the Doctor’. When the entire planet is against you, where can you possibly hide?

Teeth and Curls: Tom is great in this but remember in the first couple of season where he was completely let off the leash and left to play the Doctor pretty much as Tom Baker? There’s an element of that to Kill the Doctor! He’s completely off the wall in how he chooses to play some reactions, in a way that the Doctor never was even when Tom was playing the role. The Doctor likes junk shops, charity shops, tea shops and books shops but that is the only kind of shopping he really likes. I think we would get along splendidly on a shopping trip in that case. He hates people smiling at you when they don’t mean it. Leela knows that the day will never be boring with the Doctor around, no matter what he thinks of where they have visited. The Doctor uses his clothes to announce his personality to the world (the sixth Doctor even more so). He’s sent K.9 off to play in the TARDIS park, even though he isn’t sure if one actually exists but K.9 made no bones about searching for it. Cheeky beggar. He topples dictators, saves planets, basket weaves…it’s a busy life. His dress sense has been remarked upon across the universe…so he’s appalled when the device tells him it is 89% unsuitable. They’ve almost broken a record on Drummond; Leela vanishes within 2 minutes and he’s threatened with death within 10. Saving societies is not something he sets out to do (not at this stage anyway…come The Happiness Patrol), he just sort of falls into it and doesn’t want Leela telling people that he is like a one shop God that can sort out all of their problems. There are homeless people everywhere and he doesn’t like it but he can’t start revolutionaries everywhere because a society is financially top heavy. It’s all he would ever do! You can’t go around the universe changing everything you don’t like. Oh boy we better hope he doesn’t wind up meeting the seventh Doctor. That’s practically his raison d’etre. Watch as the Doctor causes wonton destruction and then admires his ability to throw a spanner in the works. Only Troughton was more of an anarchist, I would say (mind you Hartnell had his moments too).

Noble Savage: Style should be individual, says the Doctor and Leela certainly lives up to that. She wears what she likes (the sort of attire that would drive the Dads wild at 5.45pm on a Saturday) and is proud of it. Guy Adams allows Leela to reason so intelligently and sum up an entire civilisation when she meets a homeless person who is stealing food (‘a tribe is only as strong as its weakest member’). I love how she justifies theft (‘that man was too stupid to catch you’) and condemns a society that has forgotten how to care for everybody. Leela picks up her own stray, just as the Doctor does. Kendra is a innocent woman from the streets and her new companion. Leela even talks about the Doctor about joining them in the TARDIS. Leela thinks a hover bike is better than the TARDIS because at least you can point it in a direction and let it go.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘It means they’re fashion victims’ ‘Fashion kills?’
‘Why do they all stare at the little machines in their hands?’ – one of my favourite lines in a Big Finish audio in ages. Yes, why do we?

Great Ideas: Gadgets can play havoc with species’ development. They distract people, they stop people from being social, they cause accidents and they mean that people stop trying in the real world because the virtual world of your device is so much more exciting. On this planet it is a digital helping hand that tells you what clothes you should be wearing, what movies you should be watching and who you should be voting for. It’s a digital brain to replace your own. If this is a thinly disguised attack on mobile phones and social media it isn’t exactly a subtle one, but it is one that is needed. It would only take someone truly irresponsible on a phone net or on the internet to do a lot of damage to a lot of people. I wonder if that would make us sit up from out phones and pay attention to what is going on around us. In a period of the show where people losing their minds to alien intelligences was rife, this is the ultimate expression. The evil intelligence at the heart of this society can manipulate the minds of everybody who has used one of the handheld computers to turn on the Doctor and try and kill him. It’s a really fun idea that would have been nice to have seen realised. Think of it like the Pink Panther movie where poor Inspector Closseau was besieged by assassins at every turn. This time they are just ordinary civilians but in some ways that is more frightening. Once Sutekh could crush whole worlds with the power of his mind alone, but now he needs technology to force people to do his will.

Audio Landscape: How lovely to have the TARDIS arrive on such a busy, bustling world. It feels fully realised from the moment the Doctor and Leela step outside the TARDIS. We can’t see it but the mention of futuristic Egyptian design, gold plating and shopping outlets plus the sound of hover cars really sets the imagination firing. Adams (and Robertson) really show how to create a vivid setting in practically no time at all, without over describing everything.

Musical Cues: Pachelbel’s Canon, one of my favourite pieces of music, plays at the beginning of one scene.

Standout Scene: Sutekh’s return is so anti-climactic I can only assume that that was a deliberate decision. Since Big Finish seems to rely on the advertisement of it’s big returning villains and monsters I am assuming that everybody knew that he was going to be in this before they bought it. Certainly, they made a big splash about the ‘return of Sutekh!’ in their news feed. And since Sutekh has (fairly) recently made a return in the Bernice Summerfield range it is hardly as big a coup as it might have been. Instead of building up to a big revelation that he already knows people have prior knowledge of, Guy Adams instead chooses to take another approach and make his return as quiet, but as intelligently done as possible/. I admire that. Oh, and he’s on the cover.

Result: If you’re going into Kill the Doctor! looking for a momentous reunion between the Doctor and Sutekh you might be bitterly disappointed. This is all appetite whetting for the second half of the story. What you get instead is something more cherishable than another awesome villain from the 70s turning up in a 4DA, a healthy character examination of both the Doctor and Leela. Adams has a deft grasp of both of them and as they explore this fascinating society we get to see both of their thought processes (he’s all frivolity, banter and one liners and she’s study, examination and condemnation) and it culminates in a beautiful scene where their ideologies put them on opposing sides of a moral argument. Why can’t the Doctor decide what is right or wrong and knock about the universe making changes for the better? Leela’s response to his answer to that question is both childish and perfectly understandable and I really like it when these two butt heads in this fashion. It brings out the best in both of them when they are on edge (the Doctor is suddenly ruthlessly intelligent and reasoned and Leela emotional and vulnerable). Colour me impressed. Drummond is one of those fully realised worlds that turns up on audio, a perfect synthesis of what the writer describes and the sound designer conjures up. I felt as though I was immersed in a real society; one with history, class levels, a sense of architecture and technology all of its own. It’s fascinating to see that Sutekh has gotten with the times, using technology to reach into the minds of his followers and directing them to murder. There is a touching sense of impotence about the God on this revisit that made him a little more complex; he’s still capable of terrible things but he’s reliant on a certain knowledge to get it done. With Nicholas Briggs to direct this moves along at a fair lick and with something as fun as an entire society attempting to kill the Doctor he gets to have a lot of fun with the mass zombie crowds. Even the cliffhanger isn’t the usual duff moment of jeopardy but the apotheosis of Sutekh’s plan, promising much for the next two episodes. I’d love it to live up this: 8/10

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