Ace: ‘When you make mistakes half the universe knows about it!’
The Seventh Doctor continues to travel with Ace and Hector. In ‘Revenge Of The Swarm’, Ace is unhappy that Hector cannot access his memories of being Hex and she continues to hope that he will return to his former self but the Doctor is acutely aware this is impossible. Something lurking in the TARDIS is anxious to jump onto the life-form known as Hector and take its own place in the universe. When Ace contracts a deadly virus, she is taken away to be cured by Professor Kilbracken but the Swarm are hitching a ride on Hector and they have a universe to conquer.
The Swarm are an enemy encountered by the 4th Doctor in ‘The Invisible Enemy’ and are able to transfer their genetic material and consciousness by direct contact and this kind of enemy is hard to fight.
The first two parts are standard enough but then it becomes a slightly different narrative and the Doctor’s nature, which we’ve all been skilfully ignoring, comes to the fore again and, unsurprisingly, things get sticky again with his companions. We’ve had a lot of this with the Seventh Doctor as he is cast as an alien who can treat his companions with less care than we would like. This tendency seems to begin with the Sixth although his audio development moved him away from this. The Seventh? Oh, the Seventh is a tricky character and his alien nature is explored as we consider his stewardship of the universe and how mere humans might get in the way.
It’s also a great adventure story with elements of one of my favourite films from the 1980s included and, no it’s not, ‘Flashdance’. There is a nice retro feel here with some inspired plotting that not only takes in the 1980s but also some ideas that link it to the current TV series. Again, writer Jonathan Morris has mined the times when Doctor Who was transmitted, whether consciously or not, and brought it bang up to date whilst giving us oldies a little squee of pleasure.
There are four parts to this release and that makes for a nice long listen and a chance to develop the narrative and its characters. It’s always good when there is a returning villain, especially one that is not twirling its moustache. This one is more like the Daleks, you know, let’s conquer the universe, yada, yada. Most of the interest is in the interaction between the characters and the dynamic between the Doctor, Ace and Hector/was Hex. There is also lots of running, shouting and some overt Scottish accent from the Doctor. John Leeson returns as the voice of the Swarm but not as K9 who joined the Doctor on his travels in ‘The Invisible Enemy’. Other guest voices include Siobhan Redmond as Talin and Phyllida Nash as Professor Oksana Kilbracken.
‘The Revenge Of The Swarm’ covers very similar ground to the original with the twist that the two companions the Seventh Doctor carries with him have very different qualities to Leela. With the benefit of nearly 40 years of technological development, Jonathan Morris has cleverly updates the environment making it integral to the plot. It makes much more sense to the younger listeners who never knew a world without this technology.
(pub: Big Finish. 2 CDs 120 minute story. Price: CD: £14.99 (UK), Download: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78178-330-6)
cast: Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Philip Olivier, John Leeson, Mandi Symonds, Maggie Service, John Heffernan, Phyllida Nash, Siobhan Redmond, John Dorney and Paul Panting
check out website: www.bigfinish.com