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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Lost Stories
Earth Aid


Starring: Sylvester McCoy
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 493 1
Available 31 July 2011

Welcome aboard the space vessel Vancouver. Its mission: to guard a vast shipment of grain bound from Earth to the planet Safenesthome. Its captain is called Ace. She seems a little unsure of herself. In fact, some might almost think she was new to the job... Its medical officer is called simply “the Doctor”, and he’s perhaps not all he seems either. When mysterious ships target the Vancouver, Ace and the Doctor are pushed to the limit. Meanwhile, there’s something nasty in the grain containers, and it’s not very happy...


During the 30-odd minutes of interviews (one track of which seems to play too fast) that accompany this two-disc release, director Ken Bentley states his opinion that Earth Aid has a very different flavour to the rest of this season of Lost Stories. (Is that flavour more like lemon aid or orange aid, I wonder.)

However, I would say that, though it breaks away from a near-present-day Earth setting for the first time this season, this tale of space battles; an inexperienced starship captain way out of her depth (Sophie Aldred’s Ace - this is before the older Ace of The New Adventures, remember), who spouts Star Trek jargon left, right and centre; an eccentric and mysterious survivor (Paterson Joseph’s Victor Espinosa); and revolting sentient maggots demonstrates a similar combination of comedy and drama to what we heard in Crime of the Century and Animal.

Some critics have pointed out that Ace shouldn’t really be familiar with Next Generation lingo such as “make it so” and “engage”, as she would have left Earth before the show had even debuted in the States, never mind the UK. Personally, though, I don’t have a problem with this. If Earth Aid had been produced in 1990, as intended, The Next Generation would by that time have been sufficiently well known among British sci-fi fans from its video releases to be current, even topical (indeed, the show made its UK debut in September 1990). The production team probably wouldn’t have worried about how Ace knows such catch phrases, and many of the viewers probably wouldn’t have noticed any discrepancy, instead regarding Ace as simply “from the present day”. This therefore strikes me as an authentic Lost Stories element, being “of its time”. Besides, Ace could have caught some reruns during her time at Margrave University in 2001, and anyway, Captain Pike coined the term “engage” back in the 1960s.

If there is an odd one out this season in terms of tone, then for me it is Thin Ice, the only story not authored or co-authored by Andrew Cartmel. It is also the story I enjoyed the most, which perhaps isn’t a coincidence.

Though credited as the co-writer of Earth Aid, with Ben Aaronovitch, Cartmel has shaped the story to fit into his structure for this audio season, which differs from what had been planned for television. Instead of opening the season, with just the Doctor and Ace as the regular cast, Earth Aid closes it, with Beth Chalmers brought on board as Raine Creevy (whose route into the story is extraordinarily contrived). Instead of establishing the Metatraxi, this story sees their wrathful return, their introduction and the analysis of their culture having been transferred to Crime of the Century.

As well as recurring characters, Cartmel’s scripts also demonstrate some unfortunate recurring plot structures. In both Animal and Earth Aid, the final two episodes of the four-part story introduce an interesting new species - in this case the Grubs (brilliantly realised by Alex Mallinson, both visually on the cover and vocally in the production itself), greedy creatures with amusing and somehow endearing flavour-based dialect patterns. In both Animal and Earth Aid, one alien species becomes pivotal to overcoming the other. There are some decidedly low-key cliffhangers too.

In fact, I would rate Earth Aid as being on a par with Animal: worth a listen, especially during the last two episodes, but failing to excite me in the way that the previous two stories had done. I only wish I could be more charitable.


Richard McGinlay

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