Doctor Who
Pier Pressure

Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: 14.99
ISBN 1 84435 166 1
Available 11 January 2006

"'Ere, listen, listen, I've got one for you. There once was this bloke. Good-looking sort of chap. Lovely, bright-coloured coat. Called himself the Doctor. Doctor who, you ask? And may well you. Don't know, meself. No one ever knew. Funny that. He was a strange one. Odd things happened when he arrived. Mind you, them were dark days. No one was laughing. It was like playing first house at the Glasgow Empire. Like the entire town was cursed, it was. Cursed by something not of this world..."

This audio adventure has more than a little in common with 2004's Medicinal Purposes. Like Medicinal Purposes, which marked the Doctor Who debut of writer Robert Ross, this follow-up stars Colin Baker and Maggie Stables as the Doctor and Evelyn. As with Ross's earlier tale, Pier Pressure deals with a historical period (1936) and a real-life character (legendary music hall comedian Max Miller). And once again, the story features an impressive guest appearance by a present-day hero of British comedy.

In this instance, the guest star in question is Roy Hudd. Best known for his comedic performances, Hudd has also proven his ability at straight acting, with roles in productions such as Lipstick on Your Collar and Jack, the Last Victim. Here he steals the show as his own comic hero, the cheeky chappie Miller. Perhaps Maxie was wrong when he said, "There'll never be another..."

Though several unpleasant events befall the characters in this play, there are, quite appropriately, more than a few laughs along the way. As Miller, Hudd issues a steady supply of double entendres, especially when in the presence of Maggie Stables. Colin Baker also enjoys a joke or three. There are a couple of digs at the less fortunate aspects of the Sixth Doctor's television tenure, as the Time Lord describes the 1980s as being "a garish decade" and the BBC as "often unforgiving to their finest assets".

Some reviewers have expressed relief that Evelyn has returned and that Thicker Than Water did not mark the character's final appearance (though chronologically speaking it does come last). I never got the impression that Evelyn would not be coming back in "past" adventures such as this one, though unfortunately it does mean that we now know she is always going to survive whatever perils she faces, which could undermine the drama.

As it is, the plot is rather slow moving, and the cliffhangers less than impressive. The first one isn't really a cliffhanger at all, while the third recycles an ingredient from the second. Also, the redesigned sleeve notes are less detailed than they used to be, providing no background information about the development of the script.

This is, nevertheless, an entertaining story. Worth peering at - particularly if you have a fondness for Brighton or the comic talents of Hudd or Miller.

Richard McGinlay

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