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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles
The Rocket Men


Author: John Dorney
Read by: William Russell
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99 (CD), £7.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 581 5
Available 31 August 2011

The TARDIS has landed on Platform Five, a floating city in the sky of the planet Jobis, and for a time the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki get the chance to enjoy this idyllic place. Then the Rocket Men arrive, ruthless space pirates led by the sadistic Ashman. When the only other option to certain death is suicide, Ian Chesterton takes the gamble of his life...

There’s a distinctly retro flavour to The Rocket Men. Well of course there is, I hear you cry, this is a story set during the second season of Sixties Who! What I mean is, even if this adventure had been producing during Season Two, it would still have been retro then. The Rocket Men of the title evoke the cinema serials of earlier decades, in particular King of the Rocket Men, as does the Jovian-type gas giant Jobis, which harks back to a time when science-fiction writers routinely wrote about life on other planets in our solar system (most commonly Mars and Venus, but also Jupiter and Saturn).

Old-fashioned action-adventure is combined with more modern aspects, such as Howard Carter’s incidental music for the approaching Rocket Men mother ship, which is more reminiscent of present-day space operas. The subject of holidaymakers being taken hostage by pirates has of course been in the news of late. Meanwhile, writer John Dorney’s sophisticated script keeps the listener guessing by switching between two different points in time. As a result, the second episode sheds new light on scenes in the first: things we didn’t know because we cannot see them. Dorney (who has rapidly become one of my favourite Big Finish authors) links his two timelines in clever ways, often via the repetition or variation of a single word.

He also explores Ian Chesterton’s feelings for Barbara Wright, which makes for some poignant moments. Though of course the romantic interest cannot be resolved in this adventure, the writer sets things up for their time after the TARDIS.

William Russell fully recaptures the heroism of Ian. He is supported by Gus Brown as Ashman, who sounds curiously like Dorney himself, who played Alexander in Farewell, Great Macedon and is heard in an eight-minute interview at the end of the CD.

One or two aspects of this otherwise inventive story are a little predictable, but on the whole my appreciation of The Rocket Men is sky high.

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
Till touchdown brings me round again (sorry, I couldn’t resist)


Richard McGinlay

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