Doctor Who

Starring: Colin Baker
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £10.99
ISBN 1 84435 164 5
Available 11 June 2006

Every year, Lankester sails from Madagascar to New Orleans and back again. Every year, without exception, regular as clockwork. The ship is never behind schedule. Her cargo is always fresh. This trip, though, she has passengers. The passengers have baggage. And that baggage might just be enough to sink her...

Originally issued free to Big Finish subscribers whose subscriptions included Other Lives, this single-disc drama, like the previous freebies The Maltese Penguin and Her Final Flight, stars Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor. Should Baker be insulted that Big Finish keeps giving his stories away, or flattered that his incarnation is considered popular enough to be used for such promotional items (what my old Economics teacher told me are called loss leaders)? Cryptobiosis is now available to buy individually, while stocks last.

Baker is joined by his Final Flight co-star Nicola Bryant as Peri. According to its production code (as opposed to Big Finish's web page, which is clearly in error) this story, by Elliot Thorpe, is supposedly set between The Two Doctors and Timelash. However, Peri's repartee with the Doctor feels a little later than that. Sure, the Doctor is still a bit caustic, but Peri doesn't whine half as much as she did during Season 22. Personally, I would have placed this story between Seasons 22 and 23.

The production is marred slightly by a rather obvious plot "twist" involving a poorly passenger, Amy (Naomi Paxton) - but I won't spoil it for you, just in case - and, more seriously, by some over-the-top acting from Tony Beck as Chief Mate De Requin. If you listen to the CD, you'll wonder what I'm blathering on about to begin with, as Beck's performance starts off very well, which makes his eventual descent into scenery-chewing even more of a pity.

Nor is it entirely clear what becomes of De Requin in the end. I've listened several times, but I'm still not sure.

In other respects, though, this is a decent enough little voyage. As ever, Baker and Bryant deliver the goods, and they are always fresh.

Richard McGinlay