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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Spaceport Fear


Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £14.99 (CD), £12.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 052 7
Available 28 February 2013

Welcome to Tantane Spaceport - where the tribes of Business and Economy have been at war for all of four hundred years... Welcome to Tantane Spaceport - where a terrible creature called the Wailer prowls the corridors around the Control Tower, looking to eat the unwary... Welcome to Tantane Spaceport - where there is one Arrival: a battered blue Police Box containing the time-travelling Doctor and his companion, Mel... Welcome to Tantane Spaceport - where there are no Departures, ever...

Oh, the relief! Please forgive my fanboy obsession with continuity in licensed media, but after last month’s The Wrong Doctors managed to steer a course around the novel Business Unusual, I was still a bit worried that Spaceport Fear might touch down in similar territory, invalidating Mel’s introduction to the Doctor in that book. I need not have feared. Mel (Bonnie Langford) has evidently been aboard the TARDIS for some time as we rejoin her in this audio adventure. She seems to know the Doctor (Colin Baker) well by now, and is all too familiar with the dangerous nature of his travels though the universe.

It would also appear that the Time Lord has changed out of his blue ensemble by this point, despite the evidence to the contrary presented by Mark Plastow’s cover design. Mel describes the outfit as a coat of many colours, while spaceport inhabitant Naysmith (Isabel Fay) remarks upon its tasteless nature, commenting that the Doctor must have got dressed in the dark! The blue get-up shown in Plastow’s illustration appears to serve only as clarification of which of the two Old Sixies from The Wrong Doctors Mel is now travelling with - that is, the later one.

Meanwhile, writer William Gallagher reminds us of Mel’s timeline: the fact that although these brand-new adventures are being produced in the 21st century, Melanie Jane Bush is very much a girl of the Eighties. She mentions a couple of royal weddings, athlete Zola Budd, and doesn’t know what Wi-Fi is. Her computer skills still come in useful, however, and inventive use is made of some handheld games consoles.

The story is distinctly Eighties as well. In the CD extras, Gallagher acknowledges the plot similarities to The Face of Evil, but I was reminded more of Paradise Towers, with its once hi-tech facility now very much run down, recorded announcements and sales pitches being played back from those former glory days, mention of a war, inhabitants who have degenerated into slogan-spouting rival factions... and other similarities too spoilery to mention. Mel is even wearing the same outfit on the front over, albeit with the polka dots removed. The tone is not as oddball as Paradise Towers, though.

The cast give us their all, in particular Isabel Fay as Naysmith and Ronald Pickup as Elder Bones. However, for the second month in a row, Big Finish has made the mistake of casting Beth Chalmers in a Mel story. Chalmers plays two different parts here (Beauty and Galpan) but her voice is so similar to Bonnie Langford’s that one could be forgiven for thinking that Langford was playing multiple roles. If ever Bonnie is unable to reprise her role, then and only then will it be time to cast Chalmers in a Mel story - as Mel! (Even better, bring her back as Raine...)

Despite its flaws, Spaceport Fear is a decent, solid story. It makes a welcome arrival, even though it isn’t much of a departure from what has gone before.


Richard McGinlay

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