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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Wrong Doctors


Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 051 0
Available 31 January 2013

With Evelyn gone, the Doctor sets course for his destiny... in the form of his first meeting with Miss Melanie Bush, a computer programmer from the village of Pease Pottage, who is currently busy rehearsing with the local Amateur Dramatic Society - and blissfully unaware that her future is on its way, in his TARDIS. Make that two TARDISes, because at that very moment a younger Doctor is flying into Pease Pottage, too - returning his future companion Melanie Bush to her rightful place and time, after they were flung together during the course of his Time Lord trial. Time travel is a complicated business... the iguanodon terrorising Pease Pottage being a case in point. But how much more complicated could things possibly become, if the wrong Doctor were to bump into the wrong Mel...?

As I donned my headphones to listen to this two-disc release, I was fully prepared to bemoan another instance of Big Finish disregarding a Gary Russell novel about the Sixth Doctor and Mel. The company had already written off Russell’s Instruments of Darkness with its production Thicker Than Water, and it looked as though The Wrong Doctors was about to similarly erase Russell’s Business Unusual from the timeline, by depicting the Doctor’s first meeting with Mel.

I should mention at this point, for any of you who don’t know, that pinning down Mel’s (Bonnie Langford) “first” story is a tricky subject. The character was introduced in The Trial of a Time Lord as a future companion that the Doctor (Colin Baker) hadn’t actually met yet. She departed with him in his TARDIS at the end of the story... so when did he meet her? The Ultimate Foe, Pip and Jane Baker’s novelisation of the final two episodes of Trial explained that the Doctor subsequently dropped Mel off on the planet Oxyveguramosa, to be reunited with the Time Lord’s future self - an idea developed in Business Unusual, in which Mel met the Doctor during an adventure in her home village of Pease Pottage.

The Wrong Doctors defied my expectation by not contradicting Business Unusual one little bit. Indeed, there’s even a name check of Oxyveguramosa by Mel, who tries to tell the post-Trial doctor that that’s where he’s supposed to go. Writer Matt Fitton spins a complex tale of tangled timelines that builds naturally and inventively upon the existing confusion surrounding Mel’s origins. Here we have two Doctors, one of them being the “red tie” version from Trial, the other dressed in blue, who has recently parted company with Evelyn Smythe. There are also two Mels, one who arrives in the TARDIS with the “red tie” Doctor, and one who hasn’t met him yet and is still living in Pease Pottage. To make matters even more mind-boggling, something is amiss with Pease Pottage and its resident younger version of Mel. She should be at university by now, according to the older Mel, and she is a shadow of her usual self when it comes to her eidetic memory.

Given the latter’s mental state, Langford (returning to Big Finish after a gap of five years) has the easier job of distinguishing between the two Mels in her performance. Baker has the more challenging task of differentiating the more bolshy “red tie” Doctor from the mellower blue-clad Doctor. He pulls it off most of the time, but you do need to pay very close attention. I am no slouch when it comes to time paradox stories, but even I got lost occasionally.

My concentration was not aided by Simon Robinson’s incidental music, which is almost as intrusive as his work on Power Play. The inclusion of Beth Chalmers as the alien prospector Vaneesh was also far from ideal casting in a Mel story, since her vocal qualities are rather similar to Langford’s - for a while, I thought she was Langford, doubling up on roles. Fresh Meat actor Tony Gardner fares rather better, still up to no good as Stapleton Petherbridge - though his character’s nature and motivation are unfortunately somewhat similar to those of the Valeyard in Trial.

Those issues aside, The Wrong Doctors, a multi-Doctor story with a difference, is the right audio adventure in the right place at the right time.


Richard McGinlay

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