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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
Phantoms of the Deep


Starring: Tom Baker
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £10.99 (CD), £8.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 058 9
Release Date: 31 May 2013

On their mission to explore the Mariana Trench at the very bottom of the ocean, the deepest and most inhospitable place on Earth, the crew of the deep-sea vehicle Erebus make an unusual and startling discovery – a battered blue police box! As the Doctor, Romana and K9 join them on their journey, the submariners soon discover that the TARDIS is not the only unusual find lurking on the sea floor. Super-intelligent squid, long-lost submarines and their miraculous occupants are only the start of their troubles. The Goblins are coming – and they won’t let anyone out alive...

For reasons that I’m finding difficult to fathom (see what I did there?) Phantoms of the Deep didn’t really live up to my expectations.

Much is made, during the 16 minutes of interviews at the end of this CD, about the novel nature of this story’s deep-sea setting, a location that has rarely been depicted in Doctor Who before – though the cast and crew overlook a couple of partially submarine Seventies adventures, The Sea Devils and The Pescatons. What’s more, a couple of years ago, a Torchwood audio drama entitled Submission explored the Mariana Trench, so Phantoms of the Deep isn’t quite as radical as writer Jonathan Morris and the production team think it is.

I was not so awe-inspired by the setting this time around, and not just because Torchwood got there first. Submission managed to paint a more detailed picture in my head of this strange underwater environment, though I was impressed to learn that the “vampire squid from Hell” that menaces the crews of the TARDIS and the Erebus is a real creature (Vampyroteuthis infernalis).

No pun intended, but the characters don’t get much room to breathe in this audio drama, with many of the scientists coming across as two-dimensional. Alice (the Borg Queen) Krige makes the most of her role as the determined leader Dr Patricia Sawyer), but her fellow performers have a hard time making their roles believable. The delivery of some of John Albasiny and Charlie Norfolk’s lines (as crewmates Chris Fleming and Terri McCulloch) doesn’t seem entirely natural. Even the regulars struggle at times – the Doctor (Tom Baker) doesn’t come across as appropriately grief-stricken when he is told that Romana (Mary Tamm) has been killed, and his realisation of the true nature of the Phantoms comes out of nowhere.

On the plus side, K9 (John Leeson) gets his most substantial role to date in a Fourth Doctor adventure, and Jamie Robertson does his usual sterling work with the sound design.

Phantoms of the Deep is entertaining, and it’s always good to hear from Baker, Tamm and Leeson, but I do hope that their next story will have a bit more, well, depth to it.


Richard McGinlay

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