Click here to return to the main site.

Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Lost Stories
The Song of Megaptera


Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 450 4
Available 31 May 2010

Deep space in the distant future, and Captain Greeg and his crew are hunting mile-long endangered Space Whales on a vast harvesting ship. However, they also end up capturing the TARDIS. The Doctor and Peri must use all their wits if they are to survive. What is the creature running loose in the ship’s bowels, and can the Doctor save Megaptera before its song is extinguished forever...?

Listening to The Song of Megaptera, I was reminded somewhat of Slipback, the very first Sixth Doctor and Peri audio drama, made in 1986. There’s a vast spaceship with an eccentric computer (John Banks) and service ducts down which Peri (Nicola Bryant) takes a tumble. The incidental music (by Daniel Brett) is appropriately ’80s and the performances are similarly arch - I can easily imagine Toby Longworth and Alex Lowe swapping their roles as the 1st and 2nd Security Guard to play Slipback’s Seedle and Snatch.

The subject matter is also very much of its time. The “save the whale” theme is as heavy-handed as that of 1986’s Star Trek IV, and there’s a message about the evils of capitalism, which is also present in the character of Sil in Vengeance of Varos, the serial that ultimately replaced this one in 1985. Though such themes remain pertinent today, references made to a galactic recession and resentment about corporate bonuses are rather more topical.

Space Whales have previously (or, in terms of when the scripts were originated, subsequently) featured in the Doctor Who universe, in the Torchwood episode Meat and the Eleventh Doctor episode The Beast Below. In common with the Star-Whale of The Beast Below, the Space Whales are compassionate creatures that have been known to aid humans in distress. However, it is unlikely that these animals belong to the same species, because of their differing sizes: whereas the creatures described here are a mile long, the example seen in Meat is much smaller, and the one in The Beast Below seems to be many times larger.

The presence of the Caller (John Banks again), a Maori-style shamanic hunter (who also happens to be a fungoid alien life form) keeps things interesting and prevents the plot from running out of steam.

Perhaps more interesting than the serial itself, though, is the story of its troubled gestation. Originally entitled The Song of the Space Whale, it was conceived as a Fourth Doctor comic strip for Doctor Who Weekly, before being submitted to the television production team and adapted to accommodate the Fifth Doctor, Tegan, Nyssa and Turlough, then altered again for the Sixth Doctor and Peri. The evolution of the story is covered in the CD extras, specifically those at the end of Disc 2. Writer Pat Mills discusses, without bitterness, his creative differences with TV script editor Eric Saward. How ironic that Saward himself would subsequently incorporate certain plot elements in his own script for Slipback...

Though intended for Season 22, which comprised 45-minute episodes, the audio version retains the 4 x 25-minute structure of earlier drafts - which is a good thing, as there are some good cliffhangers here.

The Song of Megaptera doesn’t match the standard of many of Big Finish’s more recent scripts, but it makes interesting listening nonetheless.


Richard McGinlay

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£12.75 (Amazon.co.uk)
£9.99 (Play.com)
£14.99 (Waterstones.com)
£10.49 (Tesco.com)

All prices correct at time of going to press.