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Audio Drama Review
The Doctor and Mel materialise in what appears to be an orbiting warehouse, a delivery facility with a dangerously erratic computer. Whilst Mel is helping with repairs, the Doctor begins to realise that not everything in the warehouse is as it seems. Why do no goods ever seem to leave the shelves? Why are the staff so obsessed with the stock-take? And who is the mysterious Supervisor? On the planet below, the Doctor discovers that the computer might be the least of their problems – and that they should be more concerned with the space station’s mould and vermin…
More than any other audio adventure featuring the Seventh Doctor and Mel (with the possible exception of 2002’s Bang-Bang-a-Boom!) The Warehouse really feels like part of Season 24. It’s a very specific era to capture, because Sylvester McCoy and Bonnie Langford were only together for four serials, only two of which (Paradise Towers and Delta and the Bannermen) can truly be regarded as fully fledged Seventh Doctor and Mel adventures, since the one before (Time and the Rani) was a post-regeneration story, with the new Doctor still finding his feet, and the one after (Dragonfire) introduced a new companion, Ace. It probably helps that the writer, Mike Tucker, was working on the show at the time, on the effects side of things.
His tale owes the biggest debt to Paradise Towers in its presentation of a degenerated society, a vast building staffed by workers who mindlessly carry out their allotted tasks with obsessive precision (checking Shelf 4573D or Aisle 8033, for example), and an unhinged chief (Phillip Franks) who’s up to no good. However, there are also nods to Dragonfire, in the depiction of a futuristic retail outlet and a plot point that I won’t disclose here, and (from Season 25) The Happiness Patrol, with its use of letters of the alphabet as surnames and another plot point that I won’t disclose here.
There’s a touch of topicality in the opening episode, with a brief lament for the demise of old-fashioned high-street shops, but nothing too laboured. The rise of online stores is, of course, after Mel’s time. Later, the narrative takes in the fascinating real-life sociological phenomenon of the cargo cult – mythologies built up by less developed cultures having witnessed supply drops by passing aircraft.
Despite the aforementioned similarities to other stories, The Warehouse feels remarkably fresh (unlike the biscuits on Shelf 4573D). Perhaps it’s because this particular seam of Doctor Who has been relatively rarely tapped over the years. Perhaps it’s down to the elegant simplicity of Tucker’s storytelling – each episode builds up well, adding just the right amount of extra peril each time. Perhaps it’s thanks to the presence of director Barnaby Edwards, who hasn’t directed nearly as many of these audio productions as, say, Ken Bentley or Nicholas Briggs. Even Sylv and Bonnie manage to sound three decades younger.
The Warehouse is ready for delivery from the online store of your choice, and is guaranteed to be free of deadly mould contamination – honest!
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