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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Lost Stories
The Rosemariners


Author: Donald Tosh
Performed by: Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £12.99 (CD), £10.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 590 7
Available 30 September 2012

The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe find themselves on an almost deserted space lab. Earth Station 454 is being closed down, its staff relocated. Years of research and co-operation are coming to an end, and only distinguished xeno-botanist Professor Arnold Biggs remains on board. But is there more to the closure than meets the eye - for the operation is being supervised by the Rosemariners of the planet Rosa Damascena. Their terrifying Commander, Rugosa, seems to have something to hide. In a world where no one is quite what they seem, and deadly plants lurk around every corner, the Doctor will have to use all his ingenuity just to stay alive... just to stay himself...

Despite boasting a larger cast than previous Lost Stories featuring the First or Second Doctors (with David Warner and Clive Wood supporting the surviving regular cast members Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury), The Rosemariners actually feels less performance-led and more narration-heavy than the likes of The Masters of Luxor and The Prison in Space. That’s because Donald Tosh, the original author of this previously unfinished and unmade four-part serial, has written the audio version very much in the style of a novelisation, with lots of descriptions of things, such as characters’ moods and movements, that could have been conveyed by acting and sound effects alone.

Mind you, without this level of narration I suspect that the production team would have struggled to fill two discs with this story, which isn’t exactly high on incident.

Still, any opportunity to have Hines re-creating the vocal qualities of Patrick Troughton is well worth pursuing, and the other performances are lively too. Warner, playing the out-of-his-depth scientist Biggs, can always be relied upon to deliver the goods, while Wood is suitably sinister as the villainous Rugosa, though even he struggles to add drama to the rather limp “cliffhanger” ending to Part Three. Curiously, Padbury is required to deliver the lines of a male character, a French administrator called Colbert. She manages his accent well, but couldn’t Colbert’s gender have been changed to female? Such things are not unheard of in the Lost Stories range. The casting of the supporting character Brunon is more successful - I did not realise who was doubling up as him until the final episode.

The surfeit of narration and the dominance of male characters are probably both indicators of Hartnell-era script editor Tosh’s inexperience of writing for Big Finish’s audio landscape. Perhaps the production team should have edited his script or given him more guidance. Nevertheless, we should be grateful that on this occasion the serial’s original writer is still with us, and willing and able to complete the work.

Tosh’s plot explores typically Sixties themes concerning doppelgangers and mind control via opiates (a plant extract called Rosedream) and other means. It is unclear how the aliens are able to duplicate Colbert so precisely - at first it seems as though the Rosemariners’ deadly plants can create Invasion of Body Snatchers-style “pod people”, but that proves not to be the case.

Though this production doesn’t entirely come up smelling of roses, it isn’t a complete load of tosh either.


Richard McGinlay

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