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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Fourth Wall


Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 605 8
Available 29 February 2012

Business is bad for intergalactic media mogul Augustus Scullop, whose Trans-Gal empire is on the rocks. Having retreated to his own private planet, Transmission, Scullop is about to gamble his fortune on a new show, made with an entirely new technology. The name of that show... is Laser. Back in the real world, the Doctor finds himself drawn into the realm of small-screen sci-fi fantasy when his new companion, Flip, is snatched from inside the TARDIS. While the Doctor uncovers the terrible secret of Trans-Gal’s new tech, Flip battles to survive in a barren wilderness ruled over by the indestructible Lord Krarn and his pig-like servants, the Warmongers. The name of that wilderness... is Stevenage...


This story is rather like one of those episodes of Star Trek in which the holodeck goes wrong, in particular those that spoof genre conventions, such as Our Man Bashir or Bride of Chaotica! New companion Flip (Lisa Greenwood) ends up trapped in a science-fiction virtual reality, encountering a heroine (Jancey, played by Tilly Gaunt) who screams with the least provocation, a hero (Hywel Morgan as Jack Laser) who seems impervious to his enemies’ weapons, and an arch villain (Lord Krarn, played by Martin Hutson) whose motivation for conquering the universe (or does he mean galaxy?) seems somewhat ill-defined. Flip confronts and questions all of these stereotypes.

The end of Part One did not come as a surprise to me, disclosing what I had already surmised about Flip’s whereabouts. The end of Part Two, however, goes boldly where no holodeck episode has gone before - but the movie Last Action Hero has - by having characters cross over from the fictional world into the real one.

So far, so familiar and frivolous, though undeniably fun. However, writer John Dorney doesn’t do inconsequential. Rather than delighting in his new freedom, Lord Krarn is appalled to discover that he is the bad guy, and that the personal tragedy that set him on the path to evil was forced upon him by the whim of his creator (Julian Wadham as Augustus Scullop). Krarn’s act of vengeance is quite chilling. The latter portion of the tale takes on a much darker tone as numerous individuals from the real universe perish, including the actors who play the fictional characters - and, it would seem, Flip.

The murder of the companion is a masterstroke. Recurring characters don’t normally get killed off barely halfway through the narrative, especially not just two stories into the season - but then that would make it all the more dramatic, wouldn’t it, like the deep-fried fate of Lisa Faulkner in the second episode of Spooks? This is a tale that challenges the rules of the genre, so who knows? Oh, Dorney, the Oscar for the biggest git goes to you! I knew there was another release to come in this trilogy, but I couldn’t actually recall whether Flip was going to be in it. I carefully avoided looking at the CD booklet’s information about the forthcoming Wirrn Isle until after I had finished The Fourth Wall. I was genuinely relieved when the Doctor (Colin Baker) found a way to rescue her.

Following the Davros / Doctor switch in The Curse of Davros, and the Doctor and Flip’s separation during most of this story, the new TARDIS team haven’t actually spent that much time together so far. This makes their easy-going camaraderie all the more precious. In the television show, the Sixth Doctor’s companions tended to either bicker with him or put him on a diet, whereas Flip is happy to share popcorn with him while they watch the Time-Space Visualiser.

This also makes Wirrn Isle all the more eagerly awaited.


Richard McGinlay

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