Doctor WhoMusic/Audio

Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor Adventures by John Dorney, James Kettle and Roy Gill (CD review)

Here Lies Drax by John Dorney

A whistle-stop adventure full of misdirection as we meet the many faces of the mischievous Drax.

My standout moment is the excitement of the Doctor (Paul McGann) who, when checking the post, says ‘we may have already won a million pounds’. Despite the junk mail he receives a letter from Drax (Shane Richie) who is sending him a parcel of valuable items. It’s a bit of a shock when Drax turns up dead and they get to go to his funeral. Mayhem ensues, of course, with the team being pursued by some very angry aliens, meeting a variety of Drax’s acquaintances who are very pleased he’s dead.

Liv (Nicola Walker) provides the ultra cynical underlining of Drax’s personality and helps us navigate the tricksy plot and Shane Richie provides his version of a cheery Cockney who takes them on a wild ride (I assume Dick Van Dyke turned it down).

Drax is a Time Lord but, like the Meddling Monk, is far more interested in himself than helping out the universe. He’s a great foil to the clever team with his cheerful unrelenting optimism and self obsession. Shane Richie really gets into the role and entertains as the very slippery character. He’s joined by ‘Eastenders’ colleague Nina Wadia as Drax’s disgruntled widow along with Jeff Rawle and Hugh Ross as the mourners who want to check Drax is dead. The story has a pleasing, clever finish, of course, because writer John Dorney never under delivers.

The Love Vampires by James Kettle 

The crew of a ship circling a dying star are reduced to numbers and also reduced in numbers. They have been attacked by invisible vampires. They focus on memory, specifically that of love, in order to infect and spread.

The three TARDIS travellers must fend off their own sad memories to avoid being at the end of a sharpened and very pointy stick. It seems, despite being in the far future, the vampires are tied to the classic tropes and it all goes a bit Van Helsing. The vampires although presented as needing love rather than blood are just as destructive as the original versions.

Despite there being so many vampire stories, this different angle allows us some more insight into our TARDIS companions and is an emotional period of reflection for Helen (Hattie Morahan) and Liv. The small cast and a claustrophobic setting allows us to focus on their regret. It highlights their desire to stay in the memory and experience love once more which leads to a clever an emotional resolution. It’s a change in pace from the previous story but just as intriguing. Amongst the many beautiful phrases the writer James Kettle puts in the actor’s mouths is when Liv is asked if she’s ok. She replies that she’s fine but ‘struggling with the weight of decades of unresolved emotional baggage’. She speaks for us all there.

Albie’s Angels by Roy Gill 

This is the story of the boxset for me. Not only does it have Weeping Angels but they function as the perfect way to set up the story.

Albie (Barnaby Jago) is Helen’s brother. She hasn’t seen him for years because her father threw him out of the house for being gay. Taken out of the 1960s by the Doctor, she’s never been able to trace what happened to him.

Investigating a time anomaly in the 2020s, Helen visits a record shop and ends up in the past meeting her brother Albie who is the shop assistant there. They discuss music and he tells her about his band formed with his friend, Bailey. They have great musical ambitions. Realising she is stuck waiting for the Doctor to find her, Helen is relieved to be offered a place to stay at his lodgings by Albie but unable to reveal her true identity. The only problem is that when they leave the shop, they are chased across a frozen lake by a Weeping Angel.

Being gay in the 1960s was previously visited in ‘UNIT Dating’ which, although light-hearted, led Helen to examine what might have happened to her brother Albie. We’ve been waiting for some resolution on that and this well-formed story like the previous one places memory and love at the centre.

Writer Roy Gill presents us with a stark and grim tale about moral mores in a different time. A range of people make choices based on prejudice and greed. Happily to counter this, decisions are made based on love and trust which allows us to feel a little more optimistic about the future. This adventure is not only a heart-breaker but is fantastic use of time travel to examine how things have changed and remind us why we should be vigilant.

Now that the TARDIS team are free to roam time and space, it frees the writers from the central arc and gives them scope to cover a few more subjects. These are much more standalone but the Eighth Doctor and his two companions remain at the heart of all the plots and their interactions are always pure nuggets of joy.

Sue Davies

May 2023

(pub: Big Finish, 2022. 3 CDs 3 stories 230 minutes. Price: £24.99 (UK), $31.10 (US). ISBN: 978-1-83868-754-0)

cast: Paul McGann, Nicola Walker, Hattie Morahan, Shane Richie, Nina Wadia, Daon Broni, Holly Jackson Walters, Barnaby Jago, Anjella MacKintosh, Alex Mugnaioni, Jeff Rawle, Hugh Ross, Paksie Vernon, Robert Whitelock and Jamie Zubairi

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