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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles
The Scorchies


Author: James Goss
Performed by: Katy Manning
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99 (CD), £7.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 064 0
Available 31 March 2013

The Doctor, his companion Jo Grant, the Brigadier and the men from UNIT face their strangest case yet – a Saturday-night TV show that has been invaded by aliens who look like puppets! The Scorchies want to take over the world. They want to kill the Doctor dead. And they want to perform some outstanding show tunes. Though not necessarily in that order… With Jo caught inside The Scorchies Show, can she save the day before the planet Earth falls victim to the dark side of light entertainment...?

Here’s a review I made earlier.

Despite frequent accusations of Doctor Who being too scary for children, programmes aimed at a younger audience can be just as unsettling. When I was a little ’un (during the Tom Baker years), I used to be as afraid of Emu as I was of Who. I didn’t care for those giant Wombles that used to appear at public events, either – they weren’t supposed to be that big. Curiously, I was fine with Pipkins, though looking at it now, that Hartley Hare looks downright sinister.

Writer James Goss taps into precisely that kind of cute but creepy vibe with this zany and inventive tale... though he steers clear of Pipkins, perhaps because that was an ITV show and so would probably not have been depicted had this adventure been broadcast during the Pertwee era. Instead, he picks on poor innocent Bagpuss, with a bit of Play School and Blue Peter thrown in for good measure. We encounter twisted versions of the famous pink cloth cat (here feminised as the snarling Cool Cat), Professor Yaffle (manifested as a confused bat called Professor Baffle), lots of singing mice and an ugly doll called Amble, while Jo (Katy Manning) makes something useful out of an old toilet roll, a pipe cleaner and a piece of sticky-back plastic.

Katy Manning and Melvyn Hayes portray the Scorchies with all the gusto you might expect. Manning is well known for her crazy voices, while Hayes has a pedigree in children’s television, having done vocal work for SuperTed, Budgie the Little Helicopter and other shows. With all their various voices, this is almost, but not quite, a full-cast drama. There is some narration, particularly during the first of the two episodes, with Manning impersonating the absent Third Doctor. The Time Lord’s “appearance” in the final part owes something to an earlier puppet-themed Companion Chronicle, Solitaire.

There are even a couple of annoyingly memorable songs! These might sound like a strange inclusion, but it’s that kind of story, and they work perfectly in context. The creation of these tunes is described by their composers, the sound designers Richard Fox and Lauren Yason, during 15 minutes of extras at the end of the disc. It’s good to hear from those two at last, as I have long admired their work for Big Finish. The only real downside is that it leaves no time to hear from Manning or Hayes about their experiences of working on the production.

I’m also slightly concerned that the Scorchies might live on... in the night garden...


Richard McGinlay

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