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Audio Book Review


Doctor Who
The Lost Stories
The Mega


Author: Bill Strutton, adapted by Simon Guerrier
Performed by: Katy Manning and Richard Franklin
Publisher: Big Finish Productions
RRP: £16.99 (CD), £14.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 78178 098 5
Release Date: 31 December 2013

This is a warning. Your aggression cannot go unchecked. The West must disarm. We will make you disarm.” When an assassination follows the first demonstration of a deadly new chemical weapon, it appears that an alien race has fired the opening salvo in a new war – a war… for peace. However, is that truly their intent? The Doctor is unsure – but then, can even his loyalties be trusted? The answer lies deep in the heart of a distant country, a place where a man might be a hero or a traitor, where a man has to face the menace… of the Mega...

Now, here’s a novelty, for a number of reasons. The Mega is the first Lost Stories release to feature the Third Doctor. It will also be the last, because this triple CD concludes the series. It’s a tale of generous duration – a six-parter, a serial length that was commonplace during Jon Pertwee’s time on the programme, whereas all previous Big Finish Third Doctor releases (in the Companion Chronicles range) have been single-disc affairs. It reunites two (of only three) surviving regular cast members from the period, Katy Manning (Jo Grant) and Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), for the first time since The Green Death.

The story, originally pitched by Bill Strutton in 1970 and developed into full scripts by Simon Guerrier, is at once typical and atypical of the Pertwee era. There’s a dangerous technological development, an “ultimate weapon”, gung-ho military leaders, threats to international peace and security, and an alien presence on the side of the enemy. So far, so familiar. However, in the television show international situations tended to be represented by foreign delegates on British soil (as in The Mind of Evil) or references in dialogue (as in Day of the Daleks). The Third Doctor and Jo tended not to travel aboard as they do here. As Guerrier points out in his sleeve notes, this kind of globetrotting was more the province of ITC series such as The Champions and Department S. There’s also more than a hint of The Andromeda Breakthrough, as an alien intelligence aids the rise of a foreign power... but who is really exploiting whom?

That question affords the Third Doctor plenty of opportunities for his trademark moralising, and he also gets to play with assorted gadgets and vehicles. Meanwhile, Yates’s ethical conflict of duty versus humanity, as well as vague talk of a golden age, paves the way towards his subsequent character development in the television series. 

Certain aspects of the narrative remain eerily topical. What were clearly intended by Strutton as references to the student riots of the late 1960s could just as well be allusions to the 2011 riots. Discussions about weapons of mass destruction are as pertinent now as they were in the 1970s. Mention of the indiscriminate nature of chemical weapons used in World War I ties in well with the upcoming centenary of that conflict.

In the absence of their former co-stars (the late Jon Pertwee, the late Nicholas Courtney, and John Levene, who is reportedly unwilling to record any more audio adventures for Big Finish), Manning voices the Doctor’s lines while Franklin plays most of UNIT, supported by Bo Poraj and Derek Carlyle as various characters. Neither Franklin nor Manning are impressionists, but the latter does the better job of channelling her co-star’s vocal mannerisms. Adding to the period atmosphere are the sounds of ’70s Trimphones and teleprinters, and occasionally Dudley Simpson-esque incidental music from sound designers Richard Fox and Lauren Yason.

When The Companion Chronicles come to an end later this year, it is uncertain when and if we will get to hear any more Third Doctor adventures from Big Finish, but I hope we won’t have to wait for too long, because this one is truly epic... dare I say mega?


Richard McGinlay

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