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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Voyage to Venus


Starring: Colin Baker, Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £5.00 (CD), £1.00 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 978 3
Available 31 October 2012

Professor George Litefoot and Henry Gordon Jago are accustomed to the murky fog of Victorian London and the palatable pints of half and half at the Red Tavern. They are most certainly not used to travelling through time and space with their old friend the Doctor. And now they find themselves whisked off to the planet Venus in the distant future, at a time when warrior women rule from a floating city in the clouds. There’s a mystery here, one that the Grand Empress Vulpina intends to keep secret - even if it means destroying these visitors from the long-dead planet Earth...

Yes, you read those prices correctly! This is the first of two cheap-as-chips single-disc releases, evidently designed to entice new customers to try Big Finish’s Doctor Who range. The company has offered titles at such low, low prices before, but only from its back catalogue. This is the first time that a brand-new release has been sold so inexpensively.

Oh, but which of Big Finish’s many Who subcategories to represent: the main range, featuring Doctors five to eight; the Fourth Doctor adventures; The Companion Chronicles; or one of the other spin-off lines? Voyage to Venus ticks several of those boxes at once, by teaming the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) with Henry Gordon Jago and George Litefoot (Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter), the Victorian investigators who made their debut during the Tom Baker era in the television story The Talons of Weng-Chiang, before going on to star in their very own Companion Chronicle, The Mahogany Murderers, and finally getting a spin-off series to their name.

During the fourth and most recent season of Jago & Litefoot, they met the Sixth Doctor, who invited them aboard his TARDIS at the end of The Hourglass Killers. They are a well-matched team. Colin Baker’s Doctor is the most Victorian and verbose of the Time Lord’s incarnations, rivalling the showman Henry Gordon Jago when it comes to spouting long words.

Jonathan Morris’s story also suits the period. Though it’s a space-faring adventure, it’s very much in the style of writers such as Jules Verne, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (in Professor Challenger mode) and Edgar Rice Burroughs, as the Doctor and his chums encounter strange beasts and a race of Amazonian women among the lush vegetation of one of our celestial neighbours. Rather than set the story on Mars or Earth’s moon, which have been done to death in Who and in science fiction in general, Morris plumps for Venus, a planet that the Doctor has mentioned on numerous occasions but never actually visited on screen. It’s not quite Steampunk, because the Victorian venturers visit Venus in the far future rather than their own time, but it’s pretty close.

The writer takes the opportunity to contextualise many of the Time Lord’s previous allusions to items of Venusian origin, particularly those referenced by the Third Doctor, such as the inhabitants’ martial arts and the Venusian shanghorn (with whom, of course, you should never trust your perigosto stick - The Green Death), though he doesn’t manage to squeeze in Susan’s “metal seas of Venus” (Marco Polo). Paul Leonard did similar name-checking in his 1994 Missing Adventures novel Venusian Lullaby, though he presented a very different set of Venusians to the ones depicted here. However, whereas Morris has set his story in the distant future, Leonard’s novel took place in the prehistoric past, which possibly allows the two tales to co-exist.

If this production has a weakness, it is that the female performers (including Primeval’s Juliet Aubrey) sound a bit samey compared to the older and more flamboyant male characters. Fair enough, though - this release is all about the boys!

The action is divided fairly equally between the Doctor and the Jago / Litefoot duo. Like all good crossovers, this is as much a Jago & Litefoot story as it is a Doctor Who adventure. The theme music is Who’s, but the 60-minute duration is typically Jago & Litefoot. Should you wish to file this release with the latter series, the CD sleeve has a Jago & Litefoot cover design on the reverse. By jiminy, that’s dashed clever!


Richard McGinlay

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